MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a Brooklyn couple has been sentenced for scamming people and businesses in Nassau County, Brooklyn and Queens by claiming they needed money for a child’s funeral and other charitable causes. Vincent Fina, 30, was sentenced today to one to three years in prison. His co-defendant and wife, Brittney Schmidt, 31, was sentenced to one year in jail on January 8.
The defendants pleaded guilty on September 28 before Judge Robert Bogle to Scheme to Defraud (an E felony). Following their guilty pleas, both defendants failed to report to the Nassau County Probation Department and court on their scheduled dates. They were both returned to the court on bench warrants.
“These defendants preyed on the generosity of our neighbors and the plight of a sick child when they created a fake charity to line their own pockets,” DA Singas said. “Thanks to the good work of the Lynbrook Police Department and our prosecutors, these scammers will be held accountable.”
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 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 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.
The defendants were re-arrested on March 20 by the Lynbrook Police Department because of additional evidence developed by the NCDA following the initial March 3 arrest. That evidence showed that the defendants collected “hundreds of dollars” from donors in Nassau, Brooklyn and Queens. In July 2016, the defendants collected money which they said was going to be used to send kids with cancer to camp.
In October 2016, the defendants and their son collected money for Gianni’s benefit from several firehouses in Queens. In early February 2017, the defendants and their son solicited money for Gianni’s funeral from businesses and police precincts in Brooklyn. In late February 2017, the defendants and their son solicited money and obtained donations from businesses in Brooklyn and in Baldwin.
In addition to coaching their 11-year old son to assist in soliciting donations, the defendants kept him out of school in order to assist them in the scam.
Assistant District Attorneys Betty Rodriguez and Michelle Prior of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau are prosecuting this case. Schmidt is represented by Martha Leventhal, Esq. and Fina is represented by Ronald Bekoff, Esq.