Two nonprofit officials whom Nassau authorities said recruited Long Island high school students to work concessions at venues including Nikon at Jones Beach Theater and Citi Field are facing criminal charges after allegedly not paying them and stealing $100,000 from the company that operates stadium concessions.
Amadii Owens, 32, of Wyandanch, pleaded not guilty on Thursday morning in Nassau County Court to charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud and conspiracy.
The head of the nonprofit in question, Whelton Herron, 43, of Brightwaters, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on the same charges Thursday afternoon. Court records identify the corporation as the Herron Foundation Inc.
An indictment accuses the men of running a scam in which they falsely represented to Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services Inc. that workers from their nonprofit would be volunteering their services. The workers then put in hundreds of hours at concession stands in Nassau County, New York City and elsewhere and weren't paid, according to authorities.
But between 2013 and 2014, Aramark paid the nonprofit more than $100,000 for the concession services provided by the nonprofit's workers, according to the indictment.
Court records say the students were promised wages of $9 an hour for working. The nonprofit had recruited students from Huntington, and from schools including Freeport High School and Brentwood High School.
David Freireich, an Aramark spokesman, said the company hadn't worked with Herron since 2014 and was cooperating with authorities in their investigation.
Last summer, a Freeport High counselor complained to the nonprofit that the nonpayment to students for hundreds of hours of work would be brought to the attention of school district officials, court records show.
Owens' attorney, Greg Madey, said his client applied online for a job at the nonprofit, worked there about nine months and got paid "very little." He said his client had never been arrested before and said Owens was married and a father with one child and another on the way.
The Mineola lawyer said when his client found out about the scam, he left the company.
"Even from the DA's account of it, that's what it sounds like is that when he got involved in this, he didn't know it. He didn't stand to gain much from it, and when he finds out about, he left. He voluntarily spoke to investigators but, you know, regardless of that, he was arrested," the attorney said.
Madey added: "I'm told that the guy running the scam has done this before in other states, and he stood to profit a lot."
The indictment shows that the nonprofit had a Lindenhurst mailing address. Authorities also said a website for the nonprofit said it partnered with Citi Field, the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, previously known by other names. It also claimed partnerships with venues in Houston, and locations in Nashville and Chicago.