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Fraud alleged in 'dream wedding'

WHITE PLAINS (AP) -- Strangers donated the embroidered wedding dress, the two rings, the honeymoon time-share in Aruba. They acted quickly, too, because the bride was dying of cancer. Or so she said.

The state attorney general's office announced Tuesday that Jessica Vega, 25, has been indicted on charges of fraud and grand larceny for getting her "dream wedding" by falsely claiming she was dying of leukemia.

"By pretending to have a terminal illness, Vega inexcusably took advantage of the community's hearts and minds, and profited off of their generosity," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Vega has pleaded not guilty. Among the alleged victims is the Nu-Cavu restaurant in Wallkill, where the bridal reception was held and wine and appetizers worth more than $1,000 were donated.

Her cause spread quickly, helped by a story in the Times Herald Record. Four months after her 2010 wedding her husband, Michael O'Connell expressed suspicions to the newspaper. The couple divorced, but the newspaper reported O'Connell said they had been living together again in Virginia and had a second child.


Beauty pageant OKs transgender women

NEW YORK (AP) -- A rule change that would allow transgender women to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant next year is a step forward for equality, advocates said Tuesday after pageant officials announced the policy shift.

The new rules will have to be approved by Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, and NBC. Trump and NBC co-own the contest. The announcement of the policy change comes a week after the organization decided to allow Jenna Talackova to compete for Canada's spot in the Miss Universe pageant this year.

Talackova, a Vancouver resident, underwent a sex change four years ago after being born a male. The advocacy group GLAAD called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women, after she was disqualified from competing in the Miss Universe Canada contest next month. Contest officials worked closely with GLAAD to change the policy, and the advocacy group on Tuesday praised the decision and the work by Talackova to remain a contestant.


Copter drops water on brush fire hot spots

UPTON (AP) -- A State Police helicopter dropped huge buckets of water on remaining hot spots and volunteer firefighters worked through thick undergrowth Tuesday to extinguish a brush fire on eastern Long Island that destroyed three homes and a commercial building, and burned about 1,000 acres.

Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone said officials were "cautiously optimistic" the fire would be brought under control.

A meteorologist with the National Weather Service said a "red flag" warning, indicating conditions were ripe for brush fires, remained in effect in most of the New York metropolitan area until Tuesday evening.

Three volunteer firefighters were injured during the fire, which started Monday afternoon. In all, six fire vehicles equipped to maneuver through the thick underbrush of the largely uninhabited area of eastern Long Island had to be abandoned at the height of the fire late Monday, officials said.