Did Bride Fake Terminal Illness for Wedding Freebies?
There's a dark cloud hanging over one newlywed couple's marriage. Did the bride fake a fatal illness so that big-hearted well-wishers would provide freebies for her wedding?
And the accusations come from the groom himself!
"I was disgusted. She faked cancer to get a lot of free things," says Michael O'Connell.
O'Connell and his fiancée Jessica Vega were swamped with offers after word got out that Vega had terminal leukemia.
"We got the free wedding dress, the free wedding bands, the free hotel in Aruba, airfare, floral arrangement, videography, photography," O'Connell says.
The wedding rings were actually donated by a jeweler whose own child had beaten the disease.
O'Connell says the wedding itself was everything a bride could wish for. "I just wanted to give her the best while she was still here," he says.
"You thought she had only months to live?" asks INSIDE EDITION's Diane McInerney.
"Yeah," he says.
But he claims he later began to doubt his wife's story when she didn't seem to be getting sicker. He also had suspicions about a supposed doctor's letter in which she was diagnosed with leukemia.
O'Connell has now filed for divorce, saying his wife's sob story was a complete hoax.
"You're married to her, how could you not know?" asks McInerney.
"Love is blind, I guess," says a rueful O'Connell.
Gina Verdi, of the wedding salon Bella Couture in Newburgh, New York, provided a gown for free.
"It's heartbreaking [...] to think that someone would use such a situation for their own personal benefit," Verdi tells INSIDE EDITION.
Well-wisher Rachel Taylor donated hair styling and the honeymoon.
"If Jessica is lying, I would absolutely feel betrayed," says Taylor.
But Vega insists she never tried to get wedding freebies. She tells INSIDE EDITION she is sick and needed radiation treatment for an undisclosed illness.
The couple's local paper, the Times Herald-Record, in Middletown, New York, has run a story exposing the doubts now swirling around the wedding.
McInerney had to ask O'Connell one obvious question: "Were you in on the hoax?"
"Absolutely not. I would never do anything like that," O'Connell says firmly.