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Man who cheated Jones Beach, Citi Field workers pleads guilty

Amadii Owens, 33, of Wyandanch, pictured in August

Amadii Owens, 33, of Wyandanch, pictured in August 2015, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in connection with what prosecutors said was a scheme that cheated teens who worked summer jobs out of their wages. Credit: Newsday / Howard Schnapp

A Wyandanch man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Thursday in what prosecutors said was a scheme that cheated about 100 teenagers who worked summer jobs at stadium venues out of their wages.

Amadii Owens, 33, was the program director for what authorities described as a sham charity that hired students to work concessions for $9 an hour at venues including Nikon at Jones Beach Theater and Citi Field, but paid them little or nothing.

In 2015, a Nassau grand jury indicted Owens on three felony charges that had him facing up to 15 years in prison.

Under a plea deal, he admitted in Nassau County Court to a misdemeanor count of scheme to defraud and got a conditional discharge — meaning he’ll face no jail time if he doesn’t get in trouble for a year.

The Nassau district attorney’s office has alleged that the Lindenhurst-based nonprofit, known as Herron Foundation Inc., recruited students from Freeport High School, Brentwood High School, Huntington High School and Nassau Community College and “stole from at-risk teenagers who did hard work.”

Court records show the felony case against the organization’s president, Whelton Herron, 44, of Brightwaters, remains open.

Prosecutors had charged that the defendants also stole more than $100,000 from Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, the stadium concessions company that paid a percentage of food and beverage sales back to the foundation for the teenagers’ work.

Aramark sponsors a charitable program in which volunteers donate work hours in exchange for the company donating to charities, and prosecutors have said the company believed the teens were unpaid volunteers.

Owens said in court Thursday he wasn’t being paid his full wages either, and left his job after only four months when complaints from the teenagers about not getting paid became “unbearable.”

But acting state Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz told Owens Thursday that while he sought to portray himself as “a victim of this,” he didn’t look out for the interests of the young employees.

“They couldn’t prove the case, but he takes this because it’s a lot safer than going to trial,” Owens’ Mineola attorney, Greg Madey, said later of the plea. “If the DA’s office thought that he was guilty of this crime and so involved, they would have never given this offer.”

Prosecutors declined to comment.

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