Woman Charged With Faking Cancer to Raise Wedding Funds

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

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Authorities say a former Orange County woman pretended to have terminal cancer to raise money so she could have a lavish wedding reception and honeymoon.

    The Times Herald-Record reports an Orange County Grand jury has indicted 25-year-old Jessica Vega, a former Montgomery resident, with grand larceny and scheme to defraud.

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

    The newspaper 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.

    Vega was arraigned last Friday and pleaded not guilty. She's being held in county jail on $10,000 bail. She faces up to four years in prison.

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