Breathless Story About Migrants Displacing Homeless Vets Was A Scam: Reports

Several homeless men in Orange County, New York, told local newsoutlets that they were paid to pose as homeless veterans who were removed from an area hotel to make way for migrants who’d crossed the southern U.S. border and were first bused to New York City.

The story had received manic coverage from right-wing news media after the New York Post published an “exclusive” last Friday. Fox News ran pieces about Republican outrage on its website and live on air, where pundits suggested that the story was proof President Joe Biden did not care about America’s veterans. Fox host Laura Ingraham ran a chyron on her show reading “New York City Puts Illegals Ahead of Veterans.”

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley tweeted, “Liberal insanity at work.” Donald Trump Jr. wrote, “Fuck Democrats & their bullshit policies!”

New York State Assemblyman Brian Maher (R) appeared on Fox News to call the supposed move “a total embarrassment.”

Maher was the first to draw attention to the supposed incident because he was already familiar with a small charity based in Orange County, the Yerik Israel Toney Foundation, and its founder, Sharon Toney-Finch, who originally tipped the assemblyman off. He told the Mid Hudson News that he took Toney-Finch at her word and had no idea the whole thing was an apparent scam until speaking with her Thursday, when she reportedly admitted to deceiving him.

Maher did not immediately return a request for comment from HuffPost.

Migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border are being transported by Republican officials in border states to places the conservatives deem “sanctuaries.” New York Mayor Eric Adams has struggled to deal with the influx of people.

As first reported by the Mid Hudson News, seven of the men said they were staying at a Poughkeepsie shelter north of New York City when two people approached them with an offer. The pair reportedly said they had work for 15 people between the ages of 40 and 60 if they would claim to be military veterans thrown out of the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh, New York, across the Hudson River.

The Albany Times-Union spoke with two of the homeless men involved.

The men reportedly said they were promised $200, then taken to a diner and told they could order whatever they liked.

“We ate like kings,” one of the men told Mid Hudson News.

They were then reportedly brought to speak with local officials, and Toney-Finch urged one or two of the group to go on record with the false claim about being removed from the hotel.

The men told the Times-Union that they became alarmed when they never received payment.

In its original story, the New York Post quoted Toney-Finch as saying that one of the men had supposedly called her to tell her about being left on the streets.

“Last night, I was crying,” she told the Post.

The New York Post had updated its online stories about the incident to include editors’ notes, but Fox News did not appear to have made corrections on its website as of publication time.

A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James told Politico her office was “looking into it” but had not opened a formal investigation.