The New York Criminal Law Blog

Bride Charged With Fraud, Larceny For Faking Cancer

What would you do for a free wedding and honeymoon? According to ABC News, Jessica Vega, 25, of New York faked a terminal illness.

It was a creative solution to the problem of affording a wedding, especially with the rising costs of dresses. She allegedly forged a doctor's note and convinced the father of her child that she was dying. He then proposed.

She then reportedly took the lie a step further, working her fake illness into a conversation at a bridal shop. The owner, who has had many relatives die from cancer, felt for the young woman. She provided her with a free dress, money, and spread word throughout the community. Soon, the woman had scored a free wedding, dress, photography, honeymoon in Aruba, and some spare cash to cover her child's expenses.

However, she couldn’t fool her husband forever. When he found out, he notified the bridal shop owner and the local paper, who had profiled their story previously.

Though the story first emerged back in late 2010, the authorities have now joined in. Jessica Vega was arrested in Virginia, where she had moved to in order to attempt to reconcile with her now ex-husband. She was then extradited to New York and now faces a litany of felony charges, each carrying years of prison time. The list on the indictment includes:

  • One count of scheme to defraud
  • Five counts of grand larceny
  • One count of possession of a forged instrument

In order to convict on the scheme to defraud charge, the prosecutor will have to prove the identity of one of the victims of fraud, such as the bridal store owner. He will also have to show that she engaged in ongoing conduct in order to defraud either more than ten people (she allowed the newspapers to profile her story) or defraud victims of an amount in excess of $1,000 (the dress alone probably cost more than that.)

For grand larceny, the degree of the charge depends on the value of the property. Vega is likely to be charged with third and fourth degree grand larceny, depending on the what values can be established.

A charge of first-degree grand larceny is unlikely, as she didn’t steal anything worth a million dollars or more. A charge of second degree is for items over $50,000 or taken by force. A lesser charge like third degree is anything over $3,000, whereas fourth degree is anything more than $1,000 in value or of a certain type of object.

The forged instrument charge is a misdemeanor and refers to the forged doctor’s note that Vega showed to her husband and others.

Predicting Jessica Vega’s sentence is impossible at this point, as she has been charged with a cornucopia of felonies with a misdemeanor garnish. That being said, with the plethora of publicity surrounding her wedding and fake cancer, there should be plenty of evidence.

Some of the victims and her ex-husband think she should get mental help instead of prison time, but with the felony charges she is facing, that seems highly unlikely.

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