Two weeks after her fraud went viral and she gained international notoriety as a scheming cancer faker, Ashley Kirilow left a maximum security prison on bail and moved back in with her father in Burlington.
Kirilow’s father — the man who ultimately outed her scam to supporters and, subsequently, the media — and stepmother hoped that with their support, Ashley could begin to take steps toward a more productive life.
“We thought for sure that leaving her in Vanier (prison) for two weeks would give her an opportunity to see what that kind of life is really like,” Mike Kirilow said.
Ten days later, Ashley Kirilow was gone. “She treated us like garbage and took off again,” her father says. Once again, he has lost contact with her.
“I could clearly see she has no remorse for her actions. She’s sorry she got caught, but she’s not sorry for what she did, and I think she’s just going to do the same thing again.”
Kirilow, 23, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the most serious of the fraud charges laid against her, the only one alleging an amount more than $5,000. None of her family or former supporters were present.
Wearing dark jeans and black high-heeled shoes, her light brown hair grown to the top of her shoulders, Kirilow nervously entered the courtroom. She breathed heavily throughout the proceedings and seemed on the verge of tears. Her grey wool sweater covered most of the tattoo — “Believe” handwritten between two angels’ wings — emblazoned on her chest.
“Guilty,” Kirilow said meekly when Justice Frederick Forsyth asked for her plea.
The guilty plea relates to a fundraising event held last February at a Burlington nightclub by Donna Michalowski of the Sutton Realty Group, where Kirilow once worked as a receptionist. The event raised $7,400, which — like all of the money Kirilow fraudulently collected — was handed to her in cash.
The other six charges of fraud under $5,000 against Kirilow remain unresolved and will not be dealt with until a sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 27.
Until then she remains free on bail, under the supervision of the John Howard Society.
Kirilow started telling people she had cancer after having a benign lump removed from one of her breasts sometime in late 2008 or early 2009. She shaved her head, plucked her eyelashes and eyebrows and starved herself to look like a chemotherapy patient.
Her scam began simply as sympathy grifting, but Kirilow later raised cash through “Change for a Cure,” a bogus charity that consisted of little more than a Facebook page. She had a team of devoted volunteers who sold T-shirts and rolled coins collected at all-ages concerts across the GTA.
Kirilow surrendered to police on Aug. 6, the same day the Star exposed her scam in a front-page investigation.
Outside of the courthouse, Kirilow’s lawyer, Brendan Neil, said his client understands the gravity of what she has done and is sorry.
“There’s no doubt that she is remorseful. The first sign of that was going to the press in the first place and admitting, essentially, a criminal offence.”
Police have yet to release the total amount of money Kirilow is accused of stealing — they say more charges could be pending — but it is likely less than $20,000.
“There’s got to be something else there other than pure financial gain, because it’s not a lot of money,” Neil said.
Neil said Kirilow could technically face up to 10 years in prison for the more serious fraud charge, but such a penalty is not likely. He said it is possible she will not receive any jail time.
Mike Kirilow said he hopes his daughter is sent back to jail. He fears she will scam again.
“I know that she’s got another plan, what it is I don’t know exactly,” he said. “But I can just see it. I could see it when she was here. That’s why she didn’t need us anymore.”