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Bride charged with faking cancer for NY wedding, honeymoon in Aruba

Jessica Vega is fitted for her wedding gown on April 8, 2010, before her hoax was revealed.
Jessica Vega is fitted for her wedding gown on April 8, 2010, before her hoax was revealed.Jeff Goulding / Times Herald-Record

A 25-year-old woman was indicted Tuesday on fraud and larceny charges for posing as a terminally ill bride to scam donations for a dream wedding and honeymoon on Aruba.

An Orange County grand jury indicted Jessica Vega, a former resident of New York's Montgomery County, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office. Vega is charged with six felonies and one misdemeanor.

“By pretending to have a terminal illness, Vega inexcusably took advantage of the community's hearts and minds, and profited off of their generosity,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Our office will hold this individual accountable for fleecing the public through lies and deception.” 

According to the indictment, Vega accepted thousands of dollars in donated services and goods after claiming in 2010 that she was dying of leukemia.


Her story was so convincing that the Times Herald-Record, in Middletown, N.Y., published an article on Vega's wedding wish, which newspaper officials say helped raise even more donations for the then-23-year-old who said her dream was to marry Michael O'Connell, father of her daughter, before she died.

They married in May 2010 and the couple spent their honeymoon in Aruba. Four months later, O'Connell told the Times Herald-Record that Vega was faking cancer, the newspaper reported.

Read 2010 story, view images, about the hoax

The couple divorced, and O'Connell moved to Virginia, the newspaper reported. He told a Times Herald-Record reporter that he later helped her join him there to help turn her life around. They have two children.

“She's a good mom, and that's all that counts at the end of the day,” O'Connell told the Times Herald-Record. “I want my kids to have their mother back.”

She's being held in county jail on $10,000 bail. If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison.

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