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DA: Scammers Posed As Charity And Tricked LI Students Into Working For Free

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- More than 100 school children, many from Long Island, may have been victimized by a charity scam. They worked for two summers at concession stands, but didn't earn a dime.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, the students were recruited by a local nonprofit to work concessions at Jones Beach Theater, and Citi Field, among other venues, and promised to be paid $9 an hour, according to investigators.

But recent graduates of Freeport and Brentwood High Schools told CBS2's McLogan that their classmates, up to 100 victims, never got a nickel working all last summer, and the summer before.

DA: Scammers Posed As Charity And Tricked LI Students Into Working For Free

Faculty at Freeport High learned of a possible scam, and contacted the Nassau District Attorney. An investigation led to the arrests of Weldon Herron of Brightwaters, who has been accused of running a sham charitable fund, 'The Herron Foundation,' and an alleged accomplice Amandii Ownes of Wyandanch.

"In Freeport alone, students were owed more than $25,000 in compensation," acting Nassau D.A., Madeline Singas said, "These defendants are nothing more than scammers and thieves, hiding behind a charity that they created for no other purpose than their own self enrichment."

The indictment accuses the men of running a scheme, falsely representing to Aramark Sports and entertainment that children from impoverished backgrounds were volunteering their services as unpaid interns. The men allegedly pocketed Aramark's $100,000 donation.

They allegedly used the cash for personal travel, a Mercedes, and an online golf cart magazine.

DA: Scammers Posed As Charity And Tricked LI Students Into Working For Free

Both suspects pleaded not guilty.

"Mr. Herron a a good, decent, honest man," Herron's defense attorney, Joseph Megale said.

"When he got involved he didn't know it. He didn't stand to gain much from it, when he found out about it he left," Owens' defense attorney, Greg Madey said.

Singas offered a different view of the situation.

"Kids got a hard lesson in what greed and despicable behavior can do," she said.

Court papers claim the suspects held a meeting at Freeport Library and threatened the students not to alert any adults about working for free.

Some were handed a $36 money order as their summer salary.

The D.A.'s office said the Aramark Corporation was a victim and is fully cooperating.


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