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Fake-cancer bride has done her time: She's sentenced, released

May 23, 2012|By Dalina Castellanos
  • Jessica Vega listens along with her attorney, Jeremiah Flaherty, during her sentencing in Orange County Court in Goshen, N.Y.
Jessica Vega listens along with her attorney, Jeremiah Flaherty, during… (Associated Press )

The bride accused of duping her family, friends and community into thinking she had terminal cancer  -- and receiving a dream wedding, honeymoon and gifts because of it -- was sentenced to time served Wednesday and  released after two months in jail.

Jessica Vega also must pay more than $13,000 in restitution to the people she victimized, such as the shop owners who arranged for Vega’s free wedding dress, veil and shoes.

"To prey on people's emotions by pretending to have a terminal illness is unconscionable," New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.  "I am pleased that the community members, who felt so compelled to generously help a neighbor in need, will be given back their hard-earned money."

Vega, now 25, launched the scam in 2010 when she walked into a bridal shop in Wallkill, N.Y., and told one of the owners, Keri Ciastko, that her hair was short because of leukemia treatment. In addition to arranging for Vega’s outfit, Ciastko launched the effort to make the dream wedding and honeymoon happen.

"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.com.  "It seemed so genuine, I never questioned it."

Vega was investigated and indicted after her now-ex husband, Michael O’Connell, called Ciastko and told her Vega was not ill.

O’Connell has said the mother of his children has a mental illness and needs help.

Vega pleaded not guilty last month to the scam.

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dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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