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Criminal investigations may now be coming into false story of migrants displacing homeless veterans

May 22, 2023 1:03 pm

Brendan J. Lyons reports for the Times Union that New York's attorney general’s office is investigating allegations that an Army veteran who runs a nonprofit foundation in the Hudson Valley falsely claimed that homeless veterans had displaced by migrants at several hotels last week. The false story went national, repeated by Congressional representatives and talking heads on TV. Sharon Toney-Finch, the CEO of the Yerik Israel Toney Foundation for Preemies Inc., concocted the story. She formed her company in 2014, named after her son, who was born prematurely and died at seven months of age. But her non-profit organization now has expanded to offer support services for veterans and homeless individuals. Toney-Finch recruited several homeless men to go on camera and falsely claim they had been displaced from the Newburgh-area hotels by migrants last week. The men said that they were paid $100 to make the false claims. Toney-Finch also seems to have lied about receiving a Purple Heart medal from the military. It is unclearhow either of Toney-Finch's false claims will be investigated as a criminal matter. Her non-profit organization may have raised contributions based on the false story. State Assemblyperson Brian Maher, a Republican who repeated the story about homeless veterans being kicked out of local hotels to make way for migrants, now says he was duped, and says that he would report the matter to the Orange County district attorney and to the state attorney general’s office. The district attorney’s office on May 19 issued a statement that said, “Lying, without more, does not itself constitute criminal conduct, particularly absent allegations of financial impropriety. The district attorney’s office will ensure that all matters involving allegations of fraud related to veterans are thoroughly investigated.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.