The veterans’ advocate who claimed that homeless former service members were ousted from a New York hotel to accommodate migrants has been stripped of her Women of Distinction honor just one week after it was conferred.
Sharon Toney-Finch, the director of the Yerik Israel Toney Foundation (YIT), was nominated for the New York State Senate honor by Sen. Rob Rolison (R-Poughkeepsie) on May 16. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins informed Rolinson by letter on Tuesday that the award was rescinded.
In a copy of the missive, which was obtained by The Post, Stewart-Cousins cites “distressing” allegations that Toney-Finch recruited homeless men to pose as unhoused veterans who were kicked out of Newburgh’s Crossroads Hotel to make room for migrants.
Seven of the 15 men she reportedly presented to Orange County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Heather Bell-Meyer later claimed they were lured with promises of food, alcohol, and $200 in cash.
Sharon Toney-Finch, seated, is accused of fabricating a bizarre story about veterans being kicked out of a hotel.Kevin C. Downs for NY Post
The bizarre scheme unraveled when Toney-Finch rebuffed Assemblyman Brian Maher’s requests for records proving that YIT funded the “veterans’” new hotel stays. The state attorney general’s office is now investigating the nonprofit’s finances.
Stewart-Cousins also claimed that hotel staff faced death threats in the ensuing backlash.
“It is necessary that we remove the nomination and ensure that the accomplishments of the other deserving recipients are not overshadowed,” the Democratic leader wrote.
A group of homeless men now claims that Toney-Finch lured them with cash, food, and booze.Todd Bender/MidHudsonNews.com
In an interview with The Post last week, Toney-Finch denied any wrongdoing.
“No, I never hired. No, I never said paid anybody – who I had was veterans. And that’s all I’m gonna say. This is insane,” she protested.
In a statement to the Post, Rolinson backed Stewart-Cousins’ decision to revoke the award.
Toney-Finch claimed the “vets” were ejected from the Crossroads Hotel in favor of migrants.Daniel William McKnight for NY Post
“The Senate’s action is justified in light of the false statements Ms. Toney-Finch gave to mislead the public and elected officials,” he said.
“I hope she finds peace through contrition and makes amends to the brave veterans she has dishonored by her lies.”
In a news release announcing the nomination last week, Rolinson described Toney-Finch as a decorated vet and tireless advocate who helped 3,200 families with [premature babies] and 4,500 veterans since [YIT’s] creation seven years ago,” the Times-Union reported.
Toney-Finch denied all wrongdoing in an interview with The Post.Sharon Toney-Finch/Facebook
Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport), who previously served in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard, also slammed Toney-Finch at a press conference on Monday.
“She brought discredit upon herself and her organization, and anything she ever did to help veterans has been now undone. Because this will be her legacy and that’s a sad reality. It’s a sad fact that she’s brought upon herself,” he said.
In addition to Toney-Finch, other 2023 recipients of the Women of Distinction nod included former state Senator Betty Little, 82, who retired in 2019.