The letter signed by Norman Massry seemed too good to be true.
The president of the Glenville Rotary Club was under the belief she was getting a $2 million donation from local philanthropist and owner of Tri-City Rentals, a massive real estate leasing firm based in Albany. But in actuality, police say, the “donation” was a convoluted scheme perpetrated by Patrick DiDomenico, a former Saint Rose College student spinning a web of lies in the hope of paying his fall tuition.
“The whole thing was just a facade,” acting Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Friday.
DiDomenico, 20, of Catskill, was charged with misdemeanor third-degree forgery and felony attempted identity theft. Investigators said he impersonated Massry in the letter in an attempt to curry favor with an office manager at Saint Rose to secure employment and lower his tuition, which is about $24,000 per year.
The letter offered to give the club money to put toward the Gift of Life Foundation, a Rotary organization aiming to provide free medical services to children suffering from heart disease in developing countries.
Apple said the scheme started to take shape sometime in June, when DiDomenico’s parents apparently refused to pay for his college studies. Massry, who sits on the Saint Rose board of trustees, apparently gave him a low-level job with his company to help him out.
DiDomenico then allegedly authored a donation letter using Massry’s name and gave it to the St. Rose employee, who is also president of the Glenville Rotary. The club was arranging to honor Massry for his hefty donation at an award dinner when it was informed the gift was a hoax.
“[Massry] tried to do the right thing and the kid totally took advantage of him,” Apple said.
Contacted by phone Friday evening, DiDomenico told The Gazette he had no comment about the allegations or the charges he is facing.
“No,” he said softly. “Not at this time.”
Strangely enough, Massry was first alerted to DiDomenico’s fraud by a set of letters he allegedly gave to four acquaintances. He apparently produced a bogus Tri-City Rentals letterhead offering them lucrative jobs within the company with higher wages than they were earning at the time.
All four quit jobs at a Lowes Home Improvement center in Greene County to accept DiDomenico’s bogus offer; only two were able to return to their positions after they learned the offer was fake. Apple wasn’t sure why DiDomenico tried to guile the four individuals, considering he had no means to pay them the wages he promised.
“I think the kid was starting to believe his own lies,” he said.
Ben Marvin, a spokesman for Saint Rose, said DiDomenico is no longer a student and wasn’t sure when he last attended the college. He declined to discuss the specifics of the case.
“This is a matter that is under the investigation by the authorities and we’re cooperating fully with the investigation,” he said.
DiDomenico was released on an appearance ticket. He is scheduled to appear in City Court on Nov. 18.
Paul Goldman, Massry’s lawyer, said his client was shocked and saddened by the events that transpired. He said Massry only wanted to help a young man who seemed troubled.
“The kid has some kind of issue,” he said. “All in all, it’s really sad.”
Goldman called the events that transpired “tragic” for everyone involved. He said Glenville Rotary’s elation over the apparent donation quickly ebbed into despair after the members were informed of the ruse.
“You have people who believed they were going to be able to fulfill their mission,” he said.
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