More victims come forward in couple's phony funeral scam

As News 12 has reported, Brittney Schmidt, 30, Vincent Fina, 29, and their son went into several stores on Merrick Road on Feb. 21 to solicit donations for the funeral of a 5-year-old boy.

As News 12 has reported, Brittney Schmidt, 30, Vincent Fina, 29, and their son went into several stores on Merrick Road on Feb. 21 to solicit donations for the funeral of a 5-year-old boy. (3/20/17)

LYNBROOK - The couple accused of scamming Lynbrook businesses out of donations for a phony funeral are facing new charges.

Earlier this month, 30-year-old Brittney Schmidt and 29-year-old Vincent Fina were charged with scamming eight people and businesses in Lynbrook. Investigators say the duo had claimed that they needed to pay for a child's funeral, but the child wasn’t theirs and wasn’t deceased.

Following their initial arrests, police say 20 more alleged victims have come forward, including some from Lynbrook and Baldwin.

"We knew from their own statements that they had been doing this for at least four months," says Assistant District Attorney Diane Peress. "It turns out they were doing this for at least eight months."

Police say the scam dated back to last summer. Dee Tirado says the couple came into her store and used their 11-year-old son to pull at her heartstrings to get to her purse-strings as they claimed he was recuperating from leukemia.

"Having a grandson who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was a very sensitive topic for me," Tirado says.

Later that day, prosecutors say Schmidt and Fina actually lifted a picture of Tirado's 5-year-old grandson, Gianni, who does have brain cancer, and they also lifted his story. They allegedly used it to hit up businesses in Nassau, soliciting donations. They also went to firehouses and police precincts.

"They were trying to collect gifts for Gianni, and then eventually they tried to collect for the nonexistent funeral of Gianni," the ADA says.

Prosecutors say Schmidt and Fina collected thousands of dollars from their victims and were allegedly using that money to fuel a drug habit.

Tirado says her grandson Gianni is very much alive and is doing better. Her family is trying to legitimately raise money to help pay for his medical bills. But Tirado's second mission is to make sure no one else falls victim to such a scam.

"I'm also planning to put posters up in and around the neighborhoods that I know they frequent, so people will recognize them if they come into their business trying to collect ever again," Tirado says.

Schmidt and Fina were released from court in Hempstead Monday without having to post bail, but they were both ordered to report to an inpatient drug treatment facility.

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