GOSHEN, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York woman who faked having cancer so donors would pay for her wedding and Caribbean honeymoon was sentenced Wednesday to the nearly two months she has already served in jail for duping individuals and businesses out of more than $13,000.
Jessica Vega, who apologized in court for the scam, was expected to be released later in the day from the county jail where she has been held since April 25. A prosecutor said she has paid back more than $13,368, with nine victims getting checks ranging from $500 to $3,700.
Vega also was sentenced to five years of probation and must serve 300 hours of community service. She also must enter substance abuse and mental health programs.
Vega was arrested April 3 and pleaded guilty three weeks later to charges of scheming to defraud and possession of a forged instrument.
When asked before sentencing how his 25-year-old client was doing, defense lawyer Jeremiah Flaherty replied: “Not good.”
“She’s never been in jail in her life. … It’s had a toll on her,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty told Judge Robert Freehill that Vega misses her two young children.
“She’s done everything that was required and she will continue to do that after she’s released,” he said.
Before being sentenced, Vega apologized “to anyone in the courtroom offended by the crimes I have committed.” She asked Freehill to “give me the opportunity to live a more positive lifestyle and return to my children and my family.”
Freehill said he was skeptical that Vega was the sole perpetrator of the scam, then told her she was fortunate she didn’t suffer from the disease she claimed to suffer when she sought donations for her wedding.
“No one likes to be taken advantage of. No one likes to be made a fool of,” the judge told her.
Her ex-husband, Michael O’Connell, said Vega will live with his family, including his parents, in Wallkill in neighboring Ulster County. The judge said he would transfer her post-sentencing supervision to Ulster County.
Vega claimed in 2010 that she was dying of leukemia and wanted a “dream wedding” to O’Connell, the father of her baby. The couple has since had a second child.
Vega was living in Montgomery, a town 60 miles north of New York City, when she began the scam, which picked up steam when her story was featured in a newspaper, the Times Herald-Record of Middletown.
After their May 2010 wedding, O’Connell came to the newspaper with questions about her story and the couple divorced.
She was arrested in early April in Virginia, where she was again living with O’Connell and their second child.
Outside the courthouse Wednesday, O’Connell said he was relieved the ordeal was over. He said there was a chance for the two could rekindle their relationship, “as long as she doesn’t mess up again.”
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11