Amsterdam

AG: Amsterdam man stole COVID unemployment funds; Indicted previously in multi-million dollar fraud case

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ALBANY – An Amsterdam man indicted in October on charges related to a multi-million dollar contracting scheme is now charged with stealing COVID-related unemployment benefits, the state Attorney General’s Office announced Monday.

Robert Decker, 66, was indicted Monday on charges that include third-degree grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing, felonies.

He’s accused of taking more than $6,000 in COVID unemployment insurance benefits while working for a home contractor based in Athens, officials said Friday.

He allegedly collected the benefits claimed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the CARES Act, between August and October while simultaneously being paid more than $18,000 by the contractor company for securing home improvement contracts for them, the Attorney General’s Office said.

“As hundreds of thousands continue to struggle throughout our state as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is appalling that someone chose to steal funds intended for those most in need,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “So many across our state continue to feel the effects of COVID-19, yet Robert Decker chose to double dip and pilfer the state’s coffers when the state’s finances remained in dire straights.

“We will not let unlawful acts like this go unchecked, which is why we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to hold accountable those who try to cheat their way to wealth,” James’ statement concluded.

Others have been charged elsewhere with stealing money made available through the act. In September, the Justice Department charged 57 people, accusing them of illegally taking $175 million.

Though accused in the unemployment case of taking more than $6,000, Decker himself was accused in an unrelated multi-million dollar scheme himself.

State police in October identified Decker and two other contractors of taking money for home improvements, but never doing the work or doing it improperly.

The state Attorney General’s Office earlier in October announced a 17-count indictment against the three men in Albany County, accusing them in a large-scale contractor fraud scheme against dozens of homeowners and businesses across upstate New York.

The investigation began in summer 2019 after numerous homeowners filed complaints with the state police and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection.

Several of the homeowners obtained substantial loans for the work never performed and some were left with uninhabitable homes, officials said.

Decker had previously been banned from operating as a home improvement contractor in the state, the Attorney General’s Office said. That order came in 2003 after numerous complaints from homeowners. The order required him to post a $100,000 bond to resume work, but he never did, officials said.

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