Woman Who Faked Cancer to Raise Wedding Money Pleads Guilty

She pretended to have leukemia and raised thousands of dollars, officials said

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012  |  Updated 12:44 PM EDT
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Fake Cancer Bride Pleads Guilty

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A former Orange County woman who pretended to have terminal cancer to raise money so she could have a lavish wedding reception and honeymoon pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges related to forgery and fraud.

Jessica Vega, 25, pleaded guilty to first-degree scheme to defraud and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, her lawyer and a court secretary said Wednesday.

Her sentencing is set for May 15.

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

The Times Herald-Record ran a story on Vega's wedding wish, which it said helped raise more donations.

She married Michael O'Connell in May 2010 and the couple spent their honeymoon in Aruba. Four months later, O'Connell told the newspaper that Vega was faking the illness.

The newspaper said Vega had supplied a doctor's letter as proof, but that doctor denied seeing her.

The couple divorced over the incident, and O'Connell moved to Virginia. He told the paper that he later helped her join him there to 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 said. “I want my kids to have their mother back.”

He said she should refund the donations but also says mental health treatment would be better than jail.

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