Charles Barry's charade held up for six years: He shaved his head, talked of awful chemotherapy treatments and told all who would listen that he was dying from cancer.
His ruse finally unraveled, and the New Hampshire man pleaded guilty to mail fraud in U.S. District Court Thursday, admitting he lied to collect disability checks, the free use of a car and charitable donations."I want to apologize to all the people I hurt," Barry said. "If they can't give their forgiveness . . . then I'm sorry."
The 51-year-old, divorced ex-car salesman faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, plus restitution, when he is sentenced Aug. 15.
Barry became a well-known figure in Canterbury, N.H., a town of 1,717, where he moved with his family in 1991.
He spoke freely about his kidney, lung and prostate cancer, prosecutor Arnold Huftalen said. He shaved his head, claiming chemotherapy made his hair fall out, and wore brightly covered bandanas. He also used a cane.
Barry attempted to substantiate his lies to his wife and later to his girlfriend by dropping red dye into his toilet, saying he passed blood in his urine, prosecutors said.
And in December, 1992, he told people at church he didn't have long to live.
His wife at the time, Betty Audet, and three stepsons believed his story, and most residents of Canterbury took him at his word.
Barry collected $135 a week in disability payments from his employer, Grappone Auto Junction, for about three years. He also got free use of a car.
His tale also inspired members of several churches to raise between $20,000 and $70,000 for his purported $1 million worth of medical bills, court records show.
But in March, Barry's girlfriend, Diane Wildfeuer, turned him in after calling the hospital where he supposedly had been treated and discovering he had never been a patient there.
Barry was arrested April 4, in Loudon, N.H., where he now lives.
His case was moved to Rhode Island to avoid a conflict of interest because Wildfeuer works for the federal government.
Barry is free on $10,000 bail until his sentencing. Under terms of his bail, he is prohibited from entering Canterbury.