A Brooklyn couple who pleaded guilty to using a pediatric cancer patient’s story to swindle money was in custody Tuesday after recently skipping court, and authorities said the pair’s probation deal could be history.
A Nassau judge sent Brittney Schmidt, 31, to jail without bail Tuesday after her arrest on one of the warrants he issued Dec. 13 after she and co-defendant Vincent Fina, 30, didn’t show up to a Mineola court for sentencing.
Authorities said NYPD took Schmidt and Fina into custody Tuesday.
“I can’t risk this happening again, so I’m going to remand you,” acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Bogle told Schmidt, before scheduling her next court date for Jan. 8.
Prosecutors have said Bogle’s commitment to sentence the couple to 5 years of probation, 60 hours of community service and drug treatment could be off. The two face the possibility of up to 3 years in prison for the scam, according to the district attorney’s office.
Authorities have said the couple scammed unsuspecting donors out of money by using now 6-year-old brain cancer patient Gianni Incandela’s story and photo, before spending some of the thousands of dollars they collected on drugs.
NYPD spokesman Sgt. Lee Jones said police arrested Fina on a separate third-degree robbery charge Tuesday after he allegedly robbed a 66-year-old woman of her handbag on a Brooklyn corner on the evening of Dec. 12. Inside the purse was an iPhone, about $160 in cash and clothing, Lee said.
Authorities said Fina was scheduled for arraignment on his new charge Tuesday in a Brooklyn court, and then was expected to appear sometime soon in Nassau court on his bench warrant.
“Until we learn all the facts and circumstances of the Brooklyn allegations, we’ll rely on the presumption of innocence, as everyone should,” Garden City defense lawyer Joseph Lo Piccolo said on behalf of Fina on Tuesday.
Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Chief N. Scott Banks said Tuesday on behalf of Schmidt that the defense was hopeful the judge would still stick to his original sentence commitment for the Brooklyn woman after “all the facts and circumstances are revealed.”
Authorities said Lynbrook police arrested the couple in March after they went into several businesses with their 11-year-old son and asked for donations.
The two pleaded guilty in September to a felony charge of scheme to defraud. They admitted to soliciting donations in at least 10 Nassau County businesses, as well as businesses, police precincts and fire stations in Queens and Brooklyn.
Gianni’s family said at first they wanted the couple sentenced to at least community service in a children’s cancer ward, but demanded jail time after the couple skipped their last court date.
Authorities have said the couple’s flimflam included telling some people their donations would go toward Gianni’s funeral. But the two had no connection to the Staten Island boy — who is continuing his fight against cancer.
Gianni’s grandmother, Dee Tirado, called the arrests “awesome news” Tuesday, adding: “ I’m glad justice is served and I hope the judge does give them jail time.”