A viral story about homeless veterans getting kicked out of a New York hotel to make room for migrants was a hoax

  • The viral story about New York veterans getting kicked out of a New York hotel was a hoax, the Mid Hudson News reported.

  • Seven homeless men say they were part of a group of 15 who were supposed to act as vets to keep up the scheme.

  • They claim they were offered $200 for their job, which none of them ever received.

The story of a group of homeless veterans booted out of a New York hotel to make space for migrants made front-page news: "Vets Kicked Out For Migrants" declared the New York Post's cover.

But it was all a hoax planted by a nonprofit group that promised money to homeless people to pretend to be vets, according to an investigation by Mid Hudson News.

Seven homeless men from New York say they were recruited from a homeless shelter in Poughkeepsie to act as veterans and claim they were forced to move out of a Newburgh hotel because of migrants, Mid Hudson News reported.

On May 12, the New York Post first reported that 20 homeless veterans were forced out of the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh to make room for migrants the federal government was sending to New York.

Sharon Finch, executive director of the nonprofit Yerik Israel Toney Foundation, claimed the foundation had been paying to house the veterans at the hotel, and that she was scrambling to find housing for the men overnight.

"Last night, I was crying," she told the Post.

New York Assemblyman Brian Maher was quick to respond, introducing legislation to prevent vets from being displaced from temporary housing, Mid Hudson News reported.

But the ploy quickly unraveled when Maher showed a credit card bill purportedly from the nonprofit totaling $37,000 in payments to the hotel. A graphics expert who works at the Mid Hudson News noticed the receipt appeared to have been doctored.

The hotel then checked and found no payments from their credit card, and told Mid Hudson News that not only were no veterans staying at the hotel, but that there were vacant rooms.

Finch continued to change her story, Mid Hudson News reported, changing the date on which she claims the vets were displaced, the number of vets involved, and the names of the hotels where the vets were supposedly being kicked out of and relocated to.

By Thursday, seven homeless men came forward to Mid Hudson News and claimed they were part of a group of 15 men recruited to pretend they were veterans who had been kicked out of the Crossroads Hotel.

The job came with a promise of $200 in addition to food and alcohol, Mid Hudson News reported. The men say they never received the payment, Mid Hudson News reported.

If they were uncomfortable answering questions from reporters or politicians with Finch's scripted answers, she said they could respond with "I am too traumatized to talk about it," the man said, according to Mid Hudson News' report.

Finch confirmed to Mid Hudson News on Friday that she arranged for a volunteer to pick the men up from the shelter and bring them to the event at the Orange County Veteran Center in New Windsor.

Finch claimed that Orange County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Heather Bell-Meyer wanted to meet the displaced veterans, so she employed men from a homeless shelter to play the part but denied offering them money to take part in the hoax, Hudson News reported.

On Thursday, Maher admitted he had been caught up in Finch's scheme, Mid Hudson News reported. A statement obtained by The Military Times said Maher's "heart was broken" after confirming the veterans never existed.

"When Sharon and several veterans explained to me their situation, I believed them at their word," Maher told the Mid Hudson News Friday. "I had absolutely no knowledge of any wrongdoing and believed that their stories were real until a phone conversation with Sharon yesterday afternoon when she explained to me that this did not happen the way she purported it to."

The New York Post also followed up, writing that Maher was calling for an investigation into Finch. An editor's note now appears on the original story online noting that she's been accused of "misrepresenting the veterans who have been displaced for migrants. "

Read the original article on Business Insider