N.J. woman fakes cancer in attempt to avoid jail

A Monmouth County woman slated to receive a plea deal in a disability insurance fraud case was sent to state prison Friday after admitting she lied about having cancer in an attempt to avoid jail.

Jennifer Massimo-Ruiz, 32, of Belmar, pleaded guilty in Superior Court Sept. 9 to one count of third-degree insurance fraud.

Prosecutors initially agreed to recommend that Judge Robert Mega sentence Massimo-Ruiz to three years in prison, according to a news release from the state Attorney General’s Office.

The plea deal was revised Friday after Massimo-Ruiz admitted in court that, while awaiting sentencing, she forged doctors’ signatures on three letters falsely stating she had cancer and submitted them to the judge.

Massimo-Ruiz said she did so in a bid to reduce or avoid her pending jail term, according to prosecutors. Judge Mega on Friday ordered her to serve four years in state prison.

Massimo-Ruiz was originally arrested after investigators found she lied on an application for temporary disability insurance submitted in April 2010 to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

New Jersey law requires that temporary disability recipients be employed during the year before a claim is submitted in order to be eligible for benefits.

On her claim form, Massimo-Ruiz said she'd worked as an office manager since 2008 and was eligible for assistance when she went out on maternity leave beginning in March. She then collected more than $8,800 in benefits, prosecutors said.

A subsequent investigation by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor determined that Massimo-Ruiz was not employed, and that the company for which she claimed to be working was actually owned by her family members.

Massimo-Ruiz was indicted by a state grand jury last July.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.