A New York state assemblyman and former volunteer spokesperson for the non-profit accused of lying about homeless veterans being pushed out of a hotel to make room for migrants is no longer affiliated with the foundation, he told CNN.
Republican State Assemblyman Brian Maher said in a statement to CNN he was “devastated and disheartened” to learn claims homeless veterans were pushed out of the hotel to make room for migrants were false.
On Friday, CNN reported two homeless men said they were part of a group of 15 who were offered money to pose as veterans and say they were asked to leave the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh, New York. They claimed Sharon Toney-Finch, a non-profit leader who houses the homeless, was the person who allegedly offered the money and never paid up.
Toney-Finch is the founder and chairman of the Yerik Israel Toney Foundation, which helps veterans in need of living assistance. On Friday, she denied the allegations to CNN, saying she never offered money to homeless men to say they had to leave the hotel.
CNN reached out to Toney-Finch on Saturday regarding Maher’s statement and did not receive an immediate response.
The situation elevated tensions between the area and New York City, as earlier this week a New York state Supreme Court judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to send asylum seekers to Orange County, where Newburgh is located.
Maher said in his statement Saturday, “I am devastated and disheartened upon a conversation with Sharon Toney-Finch at approximately 3:15 p.m. Thursday, May 18, where I learned that the information regarding the YIT Foundation about homeless veterans being displaced is false. Their gross misrepresentation of the facts surrounding our homeless veterans is appalling.”
“The YIT Foundation purports to protect and support veterans, but the dishonest claims and fabrication of the facts by YIT does enormous harm to our homeless veterans by creating mistrust,” the statement continued.
On Friday, Toney-Finch said, “I never promised to pay anybody,” adding that she only told Maher that she had homeless veterans who were displaced, not that it was because of asylum seekers.
Maher, who was a volunteer spokesperson for the non-profit, said he is “no longer affiliated in any capacity with YIT nor offering it any more of my help.”
The state assemblyman called for an investigation into the non-profit by the New York State Attorney General’s office and the Orange County District Attorney “based on the new information that came to light today,” his statement said.
A spokeswoman for New York State Attorney General Letitia James told CNN Friday the office is reviewing the details of the incident to determine whether they will open a formal investigation.
“While I believed Sharon was telling the truth, I do want to apologize for those that have been negatively impacted since this news broke,” Maher wrote in the statement.
Adams called for an investigation in response to the accusations, saying while speaking to MSNBC on Sunday the situation “is really troubling.”
“I’m asking our local and state authorities to investigate what happened here,” Adams said. “It was clearly fabricated, and it was a conscious decision to fabricate it, from what we are getting.”
“A thorough investigation will determine if any criminality is involved,” he added, “but there was never a moment where veterans were displaced. We would never do that.”
As of Sunday, the city has received more than 70,000 migrants seeking asylum, the mayor said during a separate appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS. About 42,000 of them remain in the city’s care.
CNN’s Celina Tebor contributed to this report.