Schenectady County

Owner wins cellar cash stash

A large portion of a moldering pile of cash found in a Stockade basement more than four years ago ha
PHOTOGRAPHER:

A large portion of a moldering pile of cash found in a Stockade basement more than four years ago has been awarded to the homeowner, attorneys said Monday.

Homeowner Michael Casadei was awarded nearly $130,000 in cash, which had been held in escrow during an extended legal dispute.

In awarding the money, state Supreme Court Judge Vincent J. Reilly Jr. turned back a claim by handyman Kevin Skoog, who came across the money and tried to claim it was lost or abandoned property.

Reilly noted Casadei testimony that he placed the cash there and Skoog did not have permission to remove it.

“Under the circumstances, the cash cannot be considered lost or abandoned property which may be subject to the rights of the finders,” Reilly wrote.

Casadei attorney Adam Parisi praised the decision Monday. Paul Callahan, attorney for Skoog, said he believes the judge failed to consider his opposition motion.

Casadei has waged a battle of more than three years to get back the cash.

An Aug. 4 trial date remains, relating to a smaller portion of the cash that was either spent or lost. Skoog has admitted to taking $177,700 from the basement, while Casadei claims a total of $210,000 was taken.

The judge’s ruling paves the way for the $129,200 seized by Schenectady County to be turned over to Casadei, Parisi said.

Casadei has been steadfast that the money is his. He placed it there, he says, and his one-time handyman Skoog took it.

“I’m glad that finally I’ve gotten my money back,” Casadei said Monday. “At the same time, I have issues with how the district attorney handled the criminal end of the case.”

Skoog was working as a contractor for Casadei at the house at 241 Union St. in October 2003 when he found the money tucked away inside Casadei’s basement wall and took it.

Casadei eventually contacted the sheriff’s department and filed charges against Skoog, but the charges never went anywhere. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has said questions over the ownership of the money would have made for a difficult prosecution.

Ultimately, Casadei filed suit, and the proceedings expanded to include anyone to whom Skoog allegedly gave the cash, along with Schenectady County, which seized the money as part of its criminal investigation.

The case even saw estates and relatives of previous owners of the Union Street property claim the money as theirs, suggesting it might have been there for years.

But a photo of the cash — with post-1996 bills prominently displayed — discounted those claims and proved that it was not antique cash.

Skoog attorney Callahan said he intends to ask Reilly to reconsider his decision, arguing that a written argument was submitted, but not considered in the ruling. Parisi said he opposes that, saying the ruling references a filing by Callahan.

The cash itself is long-gone though, deposited and moved to an escrow account to await the outcome of the case. Reilly’s ruling sets a Thursday deadline to transfer the money to Casadei.

The money also figured into the downfall of a Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department inspector, who admitted to taking $133 from an evidence safe while seeking the major stash. The bulk of that money had already been deposited.

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