What to Know
- Prosecutors say the couple used the story of a real 5-year-old boy with cancer, falsely saying he died to get people to pony up cash
- They were arrested Friday; the investigation started in late February after they were seen going into businesses in Lynbrook
- The total estimated haul of the alleged scheme wasn't known, but officials said they took in $200 in Lynbrook in one day
A Brooklyn couple has been re-arrested in an investigation into an alleged scheme in which they duped people into helping cover funeral costs for a cancer-stricken 5-year-old boy they claimed had died.
Seven more victims have come forward in the two weeks since Vincent Fina and Brittney Schmidt were first arrested on fraud-related and child endangerment charges. There are now 15 people in Queens, Brooklyn, and Nassau County who claim the couple swindled thousands of dollars out of them in the course of eight months, prosecutors say.
The couple was arrested by Lynbrook police as a result of the investigation by the Nassau District Attorney's office.
"They started out with their 11-year-old son, saying he had leukemia and that he was collecting for a cancer camp," said Diane Peress, bureau chief of the Nassau County Economic Crimes Bureau. "Then they moved onto the whole Gianni thing, first looking for gifts for him and then the nonexistent funeral for him."
Gianni is the Staten Island boy they claimed had died. The boy's battle with cancer is real, but unlike the couple's claim, he is alive. Prosecutors say Schmidt and Fina lifted his photo from a fundraising page and used their own son to scam businesses, even fire stations.
The couple were arraigned and released to probation, and are due back in court April 28. They've been ordered to enter inpatient drug treatment for 28 days beginning Tuesday. The couple allegedly made statements that they were using the money they were making to buy drugs.
They did not speak to reporters as they left court Monday.
Detectives launched an investigation Feb. 21 after the couple was stopped in Lynbrook and asked about their "suspicious behavior," authorities said, and arrested them at their Brooklyn home on March 3.