Vincent Fina and Brittney Schmidt are accused of coaching their 11-year-old son to assist in soliciting donations
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the re-arrest of a couple from Brooklyn for allegedly scamming people and businesses in Nassau County, Brooklyn and Queens by claiming they needed money for a child’s funeral and other charitable causes after an investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and Lynbrook Police.
Vincent Fina, 29, and Brittney Schmidt, 30, were arraigned today before Judge Joseph Girardi and charged with Scheme to Defraud in the 1st Degree (an E felony) and Endangering the Welfare of a Child (an A misdemeanor). The defendants were conditionally released to probation and are due back in court on April 17. If convicted of the top count, the defendants face a maximum of 1-1/3 to four years in prison.
“The defendants allegedly used the story of sick five-year old to con strangers into giving them money,” DA Singas said. “Thanks to the Lynbrook Police Department and media coverage, the defendants are now facing more charges for allegedly soliciting donations for fake causes and charities.”
“Our detectives conducted a fantastic investigation into these two individuals,” said Lynbrook Police Chief Joseph Neve. “Together with District Attorney Singas we will hold these alleged criminals accountable for their actions.”
DA Singas said the defendants were stopped by detectives from the Lynbrook Police Department on February 21 when they were observed entering and exiting numerous businesses with their 11-year-old son. The defendants allegedly told the detectives that they were collecting money for “Gianni’s Fight” and explained that Gianni was a young boy who died of a brain tumor, and that the money collected was going to be used to cover his funeral expenses. The detectives issued the defendants a summons for solicitation without a permit, recorded their identification and allowed the defendants to leave.
After further investigation, the detectives discovered that the defendants allegedly misappropriated the story of a young boy from Staten Island named Gianni who is suffering from brain cancer, but who is not deceased. The detectives also confirmed that the defendants had not been authorized by Gianni’s family to collect on their behalf, and that the family has not received any of the $150 collected by the defendants. In addition, the detectives identified at least 10 individuals who were approached by the defendants and their son on February 21, some of whom made donations. The defendants were arrested on March 3 and charged with Scheme to Defraud in the 1st Degree and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
The defendants were re-arrested today by the Lynbrook Police Department because of additional evidence that was developed by the Nassau County District Attorney’s office following the initial March 3 arrest. It is alleged that in July 2016, the defendants were collecting money which they said was going to be used to send kids with cancer to camp. In October 2016, the defendants and their son allegedly collected money for Gianni’s benefit from several firehouses in Queens. In early February 2017, it is alleged the defendants and their son solicited money for Gianni’s funeral from businesses and police precincts in Brooklyn. It is also alleged that in late February 2017, the defendants and their son solicited money and obtained donations from businesses in Brooklyn and in Baldwin. The complaint alleges that the defendants collected “hundreds of dollars” from donors in Nassau, Brooklyn and Queens.
In addition to coaching their 11-year old son to assist in soliciting donations, the defendants allegedly kept him out of school in order to assist them in the scam.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the Lynbrook Police Department are still investigating the matter and trying to identify additional victims. Anyone with any information regarding these defendants are urged to call the Economic Crimes Bureau at 516-571-2149.
Assistant District Attorneys Betty Rodriguez and Michelle Prior, assisted by Lori Mark of DA Singas’ Economic Crimes Bureau are investigating and prosecuting this case. Schmidt is represented by Alexandra Gann, Esq. Fina is represented by Cheryl Bartow, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.