Vanessa Montez showed up at Plato Prison in September 2008 looking for her husband, Ray Montez, who was serving a life sentence for murder there. Instead she found Cristian Vega wearing Ray's prison jumpsuit. Cristian had been kidnapped from a New York City airport and transported by cargo ship to Columbia, where he was delivered to the prison by evil Carlo Hesser. Cristian had no idea who or where Ray Montez was, but he was desperate to get Vanessa's help in getting out of the prison. Vanessa initially resisted, but later said she would help Cristian get released in exchange for her help in getting out of Columbia. Vanessa said Ray was in jail for murdering his first wife, and she was worried that he would come after her. Vanessa paid off the crooked prison guards to release Cristian, and they went to a home where Vanessa introduced Cristian to Lola, Ray's teen-age daughter and Vanessa's step-daughter. Lola, Vanessa explained, witnessed Ray murder her mother and had testified against him at trial. Vanessa managed to secure fake passports for herself and Lola, and said that they would be safe with Cristian in Llanview. Little did either of them realize, however, that Ray had gone to Llanview to claim his niece Langston Wilde in an attempt by Clint Buchanan to wrest control of Buchanan Enterprises from Dorian Lord.
Just before departing, Cristian managed to call Sarah and tell her that he was alive. Antonio and Talia traced the call to Columbia, and they and Sarah booked a flight to Columbia so they could locate Cristian. Cristian, meanwhile, was on his way to Llanview with Vanessa and Lola. They arrived at the airport and were greeted by a stunned Sarah, Antonio and Talia. Vanessa, meanwhile, was stunned herself to come face to face with Ray, who was at the airport awaiting his own flight back to Columbia with his niece Langston. After John McBain thwarted an attempt by a hit man hired by Dorian to shoot Ray, Vanessa grabbed the gun and shot Ray in the chest. Vanessa was charged with attempted murder. Cristian agreed to look after Lola while Vanessa waited her day in court. The judge allowed Vanessa to post bond after Cristian promised to make sure she didn't leave town before her trial. Cristian told Vanessa that she and Lola could both stay in his loft, much to the chagrin of Sarah. Ray, meanwhile, was released from the hospital and returned to the Columbia prison.
As Vanessa was facing an immigration hearing, Vega family friend Téa Delgado returned to town and told Vanessa her best shot at avoiding deportation was to marry an American. Vanessa immediately asked Cristian to marry her, but he politely refused because he was dating Sarah. Vanessa said she understood, although Lola was upset. On the day of Vanessa's hearing, a note was slipped under the door of Cristian's loft threatening Vanessa's life. Assuming the note was from Ray or someone else hired by him, Cristian decided his only choice was to marry Vanessa. He stood up in court and declared that Vanessa was to be his wife, as a despondent Sarah stood by helpless. Cristian and Vanessa were married, but at first it was only a marriage of convenience. But Sarah could tell that Cristian felt more for her than he was letting on and soon broke up with him. When Sarah saw Cristian and Vanessa at a New Year's Eve party, looking every bit the married couple, she called immigration officials and reported their fraud marriage before angrily leaving town. Cristian and Vanessa promptly consummated their marriage.
Vanessa and Cristian were settling into married life, although Vanessa was worried that Téa was asking too many questions of Lola about when her mother was killed. Lola received a note from Ray in prison in which he claimed that Vanessa had framed him for her mother's murder and that she was the real killer. Lola shared the note with Vanessa, who burned it before Cristian could find it. Vanessa had reason to worry: Téa was representing Ray, seeking to prove that Vanessa had framed him.
One day, after Cristian had left the loft and Vanessa was still in bed, Ray Montez showed up at Cristian's loft brandishing a knife and threatening Vanessa's life. Cristian returned home and a fight between Ray and Cristian ensued. Téa and Lola then showed up and pleaded with Ray to calm down. Cristian realized that Téa knew Ray, and she admitted to representing him because he was innocent of his wife's murder. Vanessa denied murdering Lola's mother but admitted to Cristian and everyone else that she had framed Ray in order to get his money. Vanessa soon was deported to Columbia, and Ray was exonerated of all charges.