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U.S. woman arrested after her children say she forced them to panhandle

An unemployed mother of five from a New York suburb was arrested after police said she found a quick way to make money: She turning her children into beggars.

One of Antoinette Jones' children told police her mother frequently forced them to walk to stores to beg and they often picked up $30 (EUR22.5) to $40 (EUR30) at a time.

Jones, 37, pleaded not guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, when she was arraigned Tuesday in Yonkers City Court. Jones was released without bail after a judge issued an order of protection that bars her from her five children.

Child Protective Services in Yonkers was notified about the case, police said. Agency officials said they could not discuss it.

Police discovered the panhandling when Jones' 11-year-old son was reported missing at a supermarket on Monday night.

When police arrived, Jones' 18-year-old daughter told them that her mother had made them walk several miles (kilometers) from their home to the supermarket, where they were told to stand outside and beg for money.

While the 18-year-old went to the bathroom, her brother disappeared, said Lt. Diane Hessler, a Yonkers police spokeswoman. The boy returned to the store several hours later; police did not know where he had gone.

In a similar incident last week, Jones' 7-year-old son disappeared from another supermarket in Yonkers and was found in a nearby fast-food restaurant, said authorities, who did not release any information on Jones' other two children.

A hair stylist who works in a salon near one of the supermarkets said she and co-workers had seen the 11-year-old boy begging day after day.

"I think it's horrible," Christine Shleiwet told WABC-TV. "It's wrong."

Jones and her daughter were taken to the police precinct, where the mother was arrested. She told police she was on public assistance. It was unclear how many counts of child endangerment Jones would face.

The 18-year-old told police her mother frequently forced the children to walk to stores to beg. The teenager said they often picked up $30 to $40 (EUR22 to EUR30) at a time.

Jones' attorney, Joseph Cosgrove of Hartsdale, declined to comment when reached by phone.

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