GOSHEN, N.Y. — A New York woman admitted Wednesday that she faked cancer to con donors out of money and services for her wedding and Caribbean honeymoon.
Jessica Vega, 25, isn’t likely to do any time in state prison, court officials said, but she will have to repay $13,368 to her victims and remain in jail until sentencing on May 15. She pleaded guilty in Orange County Court to scheming to defraud and possession of a forged instrument charges.
In 2010, Vega spread the word in her Hudson Valley community that she was dying of leukemia and wanted a “dream wedding” to Michael O’Connell, the father of her infant daughter, in the few months she had left. Donors stepped up with rings, a wedding dress and a time-share in Aruba for the honeymoon. Other contributions included food, wine and hairdressing.
Vega was living in Montgomery, a town 60 miles north of New York City, when she launched the scam, which picked up steam when her story was featured in a local newspaper, the Times Herald-Record of Middletown. But after their May 2010 wedding, O’Connell came to the newspaper with questions about her story and the couple divorced.
The forged-instrument charge involved a bogus doctor’s letter that Vega gave the newspaper. She was arrested April 3 in Virginia, where she was again living with O’Connell and their second child. Vega is expected to be sentenced to time already served in jail as long as she pays the restitution.
“We’re going to make that somehow,” said Vega’s lawyer, Jeremiah Flaherty, adding that O’Connell will help pay back the victims. “While he blew the whistle on her, at the same time this is the mother of his two children,” Flaherty said.
He said Vega is sorry for what happened and hopes the people who showed her kindness aren’t disillusioned or less likely to help others in the future. “She got caught up in something, and it just got out of hand,” Flaherty said.