Bride Accused of Faking Cancer to Receive Wedding Donations

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Jeff Goulding / Times Herald-Record / AP

In this April 8, 2010 photo, Jessica Vega, right, tries on the wedding gown at Bella Coutre, in Newburg, N.Y.

The honeymoon is over for Jessica Vega, a 25-year-old woman who has been charged with lying about being terminally ill in order to collect up to $20,000 worth of goods and services for her May 2010 wedding.

The New York attorney general’s office announced Tuesday that Vega has been indicted on five counts of grand larceny, one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of fraud, all stemming from an elaborate lie that she was dying from leukemia and wanted a “dream wedding” to Michael O’Connell, the father of her then 1-year-old daughter. Vega is currently in jail in upstate New York on $10,000 bail.

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Vega visited a Wallkill, N.Y. bridal shop in early 2010, and told the owner, Keri Ciastko, that she was terminally ill and hoping to get married quickly. Ciastko helped to provide Vega with a wedding dress, alterations, shoes and a wig to cover her short hair — which Vega claimed was falling out from the cancer.

“She pulled at my heartstrings. I’ve lost a lot of family members to cancer, so I did everything I could to help her,” Ciastko told ABC News. “It seemed so genuine, I never questioned it.”

Vega’s story was picked up by the Times Herald Record, and other community members jumped to give her the wedding of her dreams — from donating a reception venue and food to flowers and photography, as well as a time-share in Aruba for the couple to enjoy on their honeymoon.

Just a few months after the wedding, however, O’Connell called Ciastko and the other vendors and told them that Vega had lied about being sick, saying that the doctor’s letter she had confirming her illness was fake. Vega spoke with the New York Daily News in September 2010, and insisted that she did have leukemia, and that O’Connell and her were in the midst of a nasty divorce. Since then, the couple had reconciled and moved to Virginia, where they had a second child.

If convicted, Vega could face up to four years in jail.

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