New York woman, Jessica Vega, duped neighbors and businesses out of thousands of dollars by claiming she was dying of cancer and accepting gifts including a wedding dress, rings and a honeymoon in Aruba, according to state prosecutors.
Vega, 25, has been indicted on charges of fraud and grand larceny for sourcing her 2010 "dream wedding" by falsely claiming she was dying of leukaemia, according to the Associated Press.
"By pretending to have a terminal illness, Vega inexcusably took advantage of the community's hearts and minds, and profited off of their generosity," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
"Our office will hold this individual accountable for fleecing the public through lies and deception."
ABC News interviewed Keri Ciastko, co-owner of Bliss Bridal, who said Vega came into the Newburgh shop — then called Bella Couture — in search of a wedding dress.
Ciastko said she noticed Vega's short hair, adding that: "It came up in conversation that she had lost her hair due to this 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."
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The shop provided Vega with a $1,500 ivory Maggie Sottero wedding gown, a seamstress for alterations, shoes and a wig.
Vega, of Hudson Valley, married construction worker Michael O’Connell, 25, of Walkill, NY, in May 2010.
According to the New York Daily News it was O’Connell who blew the whistle on his bride’s alleged scam.
The two filed for divorce after she called him an abusive drunk, but they reconciled and moved to Virginia where they are raising two children.
“She’s a good mom, and that’s what counts at the end of the day,” O’Connell told the Times Herald-Record. “I want my kids to have their mother back.”
Ciastko, meantime, said she even used her own money to help Vega, who had said she was struggling financially.
“I never got the gown back,” the New York Daily News quoted Ciastko as saying. “What she did was awful. I’ve lost people in my own family to cancer. It’s taking the worst possible thing and manipulating it.”
Schneiderman said Vega could get a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted.
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