A Schenectady police sergeant has been suspended amid allegations that he may have taken part in a scheme to defraud Colonie car dealerships out of expensive cars, authorities said.
The officer is also being investigated for his alleged participation in the pornography industry, according to documents filed in court.
Sgt. Jonathan Moore, 35, an eight-year veteran of the Schenectady police force, has not been charged in the case, but a man he lived with and accompanied to at least two of the dealerships involved in the investigation is now facing forgery charges. That man is accused of presenting fake checks for a total of more than $100,000 to two Colonie dealerships last month.
Anthony Aubin, 26, of Vale Drive, Clifton Park, remains in custody at Albany County Jail on two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Court documents and police indicated Wednesday that Aubin has a history of similar dealings and had been on parole for a conviction in Kansas.
In a statement to Colonie police, Moore admitted knowing Aubin’s parole status but denied knowing any of the checks involved in the attempted car transactions were fake.
Moore’s statement also includes references to the gay porn industry — that Moore and Aubin had agreed to be in films.
Schenectady police Chief Eric Clifford Wednesday morning confirmed that Moore has been suspended with pay since Oct. 14, when the department first learned of his connection to Aubin and the fraudulent attempted car purchases.
The department also learned then of Moore’s alleged agreement to work in the porn industry, Clifford said. That, as well as associating with a person who has a criminal past, violates the department’s code of conduct.
“He was suspended because he is part of an active investigation by another police department,” Clifford said of the Oct. 14 suspension. “So while he’s a target of an investigation, we just don’t feel it’s appropriate to have him out on the street working right now.”
Clifford called the press conference in response to a story published Wednesday in the Albany Times-Union. In addition to outlining the charges against Aubin, that story also said the investigation resulted in allegations that police officers participated in sex parties that may have included underage teens.
Clifford said his investigators spoke with Aubin in October, and no allegations of underage sex parties came up.
Clifford did say Moore disclosed to Colonie police his involvement in the porn industry. The allegations of underage sex parties are part of the Schenectady Police Department’s internal investigation now, Clifford said, adding that his department first learned of the allegations from the Times-Union article.
Colonie police spokesman Lt. Robert Winn, whose department investigated the forged check allegations, also said Wednesday he first learned of the illegal party allegations Wednesday, and he has since learned that the Albany District Attorney’s Office is looking into whether an Albany police officer was involved in the alleged parties.
A message left with an Albany police spokesman Wednesday afternoon was not returned.
No one answered the door late Wednesday afternoon at a Schenectady address listed for Moore.
Aubin faces two counts of felony second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument that accuse him of presenting forged checks to two Colonie auto dealerships in an attempt to purchase cars.
One check, for more than $92,000, was presented Oct. 8 to Capital Luxury Cars. A second check, for $15,000, was presented to Goldstein Chrysler Jeep on Oct. 11, according to court documents.
The fraud investigation by Colonie police began Sept. 28 after Capital Luxury Cars notified police of two individuals — identified in court documents as Aubin and Moore — trying to purchase expensive cars. The interaction apparently raised suspicions with dealership staff.
“In the conversations and the negotiations, the stories changed from [Aubin and Moore],” Winn said. “It rose [dealership staff’s] levels of suspicion as to what was going on — if it was a scam or a fraud or what it was.”
The dealership also did an internet check on Aubin that returned articles about scams Aubin had been involved with nationwide, Winn said.
A 2011 article in The Post-Star in Glens Falls identifies Aubin and a California man has having been arrested in Glens Falls the previous year in a stolen sport utility vehicle. That story reported the men faced allegations related to a string of scams involving luxury car dealerships in six states.
Winn said Aubin was arrested after he presented the fake check to the dealership on Oct. 8.
Police then took Moore in for questioning because Moore was with Aubin at the time of his arrest. Moore denied knowing of anything illegal.
“As far as I knew, the transactions for the vehicles were legitimate,” Moore said, according to police records.
Moore told police he met Aubin online years earlier, and they renewed their friendship after Aubin returned to the area in July.
Moore allegedly said he used department computers to check Aubin’s parole status, as recently as two days before being questioned.
The statement continued that Moore knew Aubin had previously been involved in the porn industry, and Moore told Colonie police he also took a job with a pornography company. His statement later suggests that he hadn’t actually appeared in any such films.
Ultimately, Moore said he expected $400,000 to be deposited into his account for work he had done with one film company.
In expectation of receiving that cash, Moore and Aubin went to purchase new vehicles, Moore told investigators. Moore test drove a Jaguar at Capital Luxury Cars, and Aubin wanted to buy a Range Rover.
The Schenectady Police Department has been plagued by inappropriate or criminal behavior on the part of officers.
In 2012, the first year of McCarthy’s administration and under the direction of Police Chief Mark Chaires, off-duty officers on the midnight shift hired strippers for a party at a Schenectady bar owned by a retired police officer. An internal investigation found officers “exercised poor judgment resulting in discredit being brought on the department.”
The number of officers disciplined or the nature of the penalties in that case were not disclosed, and no evidence of a crime was found.
In 2010, under the mayoral administration of Brian Stratton and Police Chief Chaires, several officers left or were removed from duty as part of a sweeping discipline effort. In those instances:
– Police officer Dwayne Johnson resigned as part of a plea deal after an investigation found he was sleeping on the job and occasionally working as a private security guard during his police shifts.
–Officer Kyle Hunter was charged with stealing his girlfriend’s car, violating an order of protection against her and harassing her. He quit the force before his disciplinary hearing.
–Officer Gregory Hafensteiner was accused of kicking a handcuffed man in the head as he sat in the back of a patrol car. The incident was recorded. Hafensteiner resigned before he could be fired.
–Officer Andrew Karaskiewicz, accused of beating the same handcuffed man Hafensteiner had kicked, refused to resign and was instead fired after it was determined he used “unnecessary and excessive force.” The incident involving Karaskiewicz took place out of range of video cameras.
–Officer Sherri Barnes retired a day before a jury convicted her of misusing prescription drugs. She used her police phone to contact her supplier more than 2,600 times and once flashed her badge to get a pharmacist to hurry up, according to prosecutors.
Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.
Gazette Reporter Brett Samuels contributed to this report.