Brittney Schmidt, 30, and Vincent Fina, 29, of Brooklyn pleaded not guilty to scheme to defraud and child endangerment charges on Tuesday. Dee Tirado, 52, told DNAinfo that Schmidt and Fina accrued $12,000 for a fake funeral for her grandson Gianni Incandela—who a year ago was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a brain tumor.
Tirado said she started a G0FundMe to pay for Incandela’s medical costs not covered by insurance. Earlier this month, the grandmother claimed she received messages from people saying that strangers told them the 5-year-old had died and that they were raising money for his funeral.
“Gianni has lost all sight in one of this eyes and some in the other of the tumor’s damage,” the GoFundMe page reads. “He has already had 2 major brain surgeries and other procedures in an effort to remove the tumor.”
Tirado also told News 12 that she suspected Fina and Schmidt took her grandson’s photo from the online campaign and put it on a canister to solicit donations.
According to LongIsland.com, Lynbrook Police Department detectives saw Fina, Schmidt, and their young son exiting several businesses on February 21. Detectives started an investigation after they explained they were raising money for a deceased 5-year-old. Authorities were able to locate victims scammed by the pair and determined that the boy they were raising money for did not die. The couple was arrested on March 3 at their Brooklyn home.
Prosecutors claimed the couple, who ran the racket for months, collected $200 in one day. One woman who supposedly gave them money told NBC New York that their 11-year-old son acted as the lead pitchman.
Detectives believe the supposed scammers have more victims in Queens, Brooklyn, and Nassau County. Prosecutors are asking anyone who believes they were conned by the couple to call 516-571-2149.
[Feature Photo: Nassau County Police Department]