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Rip-Off Alert: Couple accused of scamming businesses for phony funeral donations

A couple, Brittney Schmidt and Vincent Fina, is accused of scamming businesses out of donations for a phony funeral. (KSNV file)

This is a rip-off alert involving a despicable lie.

A couple is accused of scamming businesses out of donations for a phony funeral.

A Brooklyn couple is accused of scamming twice as many people as expected. Earlier this month, 30-year-old Brittney Schmidt and 29-year-old Vincent Fina were charged with scamming eight people and businesses, but since then, 20 more alleged victims have come forward.

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.

"We knew from their own statements that they had been doing this for at least four months," said 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," said Tirado.

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, 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," said Peress.

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," said Tirado.

Prosecutors say the couple used victims' money -- thousands of dollars -- to fuel a drug habit.

They've been ordered to report to a drug treatment facility ... for now.

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