A woman panhandling with a newborn near Grand Central Station was arrested Thursday and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and aggressive panhandling, authorities said.
The arrest is the first following a series of exclusive I-Team reports that found the woman and others may be involved in a coordinated scheme to exploit their children. Officials had vowed to take action following the I-Team's reporting.
MTA police arrested the woman, Caselina Margel, after a city outreach worker pointed her out as she begged for money on the street while holding her 2-month-old son.
"Our officers were concerned enough to take action," said MTA chief spokesman Adam Lisberg. "We ended up bringing a misdemeanor charge against the mother."
Margel pleaded not guilty to child endangerment at her arraignment with the aid of a Romanian interpreter. The judge entered a protective order that requires Margel to have no contact with her child, who will be placed in the custody of his father.
The Administration for Children's Services is investigating the case as well.
When the I-Team exposed the practice last fall, Mayor de Blasio said he was appalled but the NYPD had insisted its hands are tied because panhandling with children on city streets is not illegal.
The I-Team first exposed the women working together last November -- commuting in groups with their young children, then splitting up to work long shifts on separate corners. Sometimes they were seen taking lunch breaks together.
Social service groups say they do not believe these women are homeless. They tell the I-Team they repeatedly refuse government help like shelter, food and welfare because they would rather collect cash on the street.
While the NYPD is sometimes approached by concerned New Yorkers, generally the most officers do is move the women. They just end up on different corners.