MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island couple accused of using a photo from a Staten Island boy suffering from cancer and using it as part of a charity scam appeared in court Tuesday. Brittaney Schmidt
Brittaney Schmidt, 30, and Vincent Fina, 29, walked out of court with their heads down after being placed on supervised release.
“I will make a comment when this is over with,” Schmidt told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
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.
“I found out via emails from several strangers that I’ve never met before in different areas, around town in Brooklyn, that a woman had been going around collecting money for my grandson Gianni and claiming that he has passed away,” said Dee Tirado, Gianni’s grandmother, told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco exclusively last week.
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.
Nassau County Prosecutor Diane Pariss said she is looking for more victims of the scam.
“They’re using crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe, to post things the victims don’t even know about,” Pariss said. “And then using the money for their own personal use.”
Pariss said the couple targeted businesses in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island.
Since CBS2 first aired the story of the alleged fraud, the boy’s family said donations have increased on the official GoFundMe site.