(NEW YORK) — The New York woman who faked a cancer diagnosis and scored thousands of dollars in wedding donations now says she didn’t act alone.
In her first broadcast interview, Jessica Vega told ABC’s 20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas that a friend forged letters from doctors about her supposed cancer treatments and that Vega signed them.
Vega would not reveal the friend’s identity, but said that person was no longer in her social circle.
“I’m not a snitch,” she said, but later added, “I don’t need that person in my life anymore.”
Vega, 25, was living in Montgomery, N.Y., when she told her then-boyfriend, Michael O’Connell, that she was battling a rare form of leukemia and had six months to live. Word spread and soon Vega’s story was featured in a local newspaper. Friends and those sympathetic to Vega’s story came forward with donations of more than $13,000 to pay for the couple’s wedding and honeymoon.
After the truth came to light, Vega was arrested, apologized and, last April, pled guilty to charges of scheming to defraud and possession of a forged instrument. She was sentenced to time served — fewer than two months — and released from prison last month. With the help of her father, Vega has repaid her wedding donors.
O’Connell, who fathered two children with Vega, said he had no idea of her scheme and only grew suspicious after they married. The couple divorced months after the wedding but have since reconciled.
While headline after headline has accused Vega of faking her illness to afford her “dream wedding,” Vega said she concocted the story in a desperate attempt to save her relationship with O’Connell. She said that before she told him of her “cancer,” O’Connell had moved out. At that point, the couple had one child together.
“I felt like if I didn’t have some way to get his attention, momentarily, that’s it, I’m going to be a single mom,” she told 20/20.
The couple moved back in together and made plans to marry. Day after day, Vega said she couldn’t bring herself to come clean.
“I could’ve woken up any day and told Michael the truth, but I was a coward,” she said.
Though she served time in prison and paid back her donors, Vega knows that will never be enough to gain forgiveness from those she’s wronged.
“I’m well aware that there’s no way that I’m ever going to be able to make it up to people, at the end of the day,” she said. “All I can offer is my humble apologies.”
Watch the full story, including footage from O’Connell and Vega’s wedding, on 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
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