LYNBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police in Nassau County have arrested a man and woman they say used a picture of a boy battling cancer to con people.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, there were no apologies Saturday from 30-year-old Brittney Schmidt and 29-year-old Vincent Fina in Nassau District Court after their arraignments on charges of scheming to defraud and endangering the welfare of a child.
Police said witnesses told them the couple and their 11-year-old son collected money from unwitting New Yorkers on behalf of kids with cancer. Police also said this was often done on behalf of a boy the suspects don’t even know — 5-year-old Gianni Incandela, of Rossville, Staten Island, who has a brain tumor.
The boy’s mother, Kelly, said friends warned her scammers were using her son’s photo, which they easily lifted from a legitimate GoFundMe page, stealing from the generous and giving to themselves, Carlin reported.
She and her family decided somehow they would put a stop to it.
“It’s unbelievable,” Kelly said.
The boy’s grandmother, Dee Tirado, managed to take a photo of the suspects and tip off police in both Brooklyn and Nassau County — all because, by chance, the alleged scammers walked into her office.
“She walked right in my door,” Tirado told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco on Wednesday. “I told them, ‘I’m taking your picture and make sure everyone knows you guys are a scam.'”
Posts on social media and flyers with the photo started circulating, leading to Nassau County police connecting the trio to an alleged wave of cancer kid scams in Lynbrook on February 21, where they allegedly pocketed $170 dollars in donations, Carlin reported.
The judge let Schmidt and Fina out on probation with no bail, and they are due back in court on March 7.
CBS2 learned that as the couple sorts out their legal problems in Nassau County, the New York City police department is also investigating. And it’s thanks to Gianni’s determined family not giving up, getting results.
“I do have an amazing family who is always there for each other,” Kelly said.
The family said this detour as crime fighters never side-tracked their No. 1 priority — to focus on Gianni, helping him be happy and get healthy.
In court, defense attorneys said Schmidt worked for years as a registered medical assistant for years but is currently unemployed. The couple’s son is being cared for by his grandparents.
Since CBS2 first aired the story of the alleged fraud, the boy’s family said donations have increased on the official GoFundMe site.