The leader of a three-county burglary spree is to get 14 years in state prison after a guilty plea Wednesday.
Scott Shafer, 42, admitted to leading the ring and taking part in as many as 100 home burglaries in Schenectady, Albany and Saratoga counties during the fall of 2008.
The exact number of burglaries may never be known; Shafer, an admitted drug addict, suggested that even he doesn’t know.
“I don’t know whether I did or I didn’t,” Shafer said in court about burglarizing a particular home. The comment came during a discussion on more than $16,000 in restitution Shafer agreed to pay as part of the plea.
Prosecutor Amy Burock indicated the restitution figure results from as many as 20 separate victims, from both burglaries that had been charged and not charged.
Prosecutors believe Shafer committed each, though Shafer only admitted Wednesday to a single break-in. Shafer and two others were arrested in December 2008, accused of taking part in the burglary ring that touched three counties. In Schenectady County, officials have noted burglaries from Rotterdam, Glenville, Princetown and Schenectady.
One of the other men, Raymond Wilkins, 45, has pleaded guilty to a related crime. He is to be sentenced.
Authorities alleged that proceeds from the break-ins were sold for drugs.
During routine preliminary questioning prior to Wednesday’s plea, Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago asked Shafer if he was addicted to drugs.
Shafer indicated that he had been, in the past.
Drago, who runs the county drug court, corrected Shafer. She told him that he is currently an addict, but in remission trying to maintain his sobriety.
Shafer nodded in agreement. Shafer appeared calm in court. He questioned the restitution figure, asking if he could be required to pay for crimes for which he was never charged.
If he were convicted at trial, Drago indicated, he would only be required to pay restitution for what he was convicted of. Plea bargains are different. That was the offer from the prosecution, Drago noted. He could only accept it in full or reject it in full.
“I’m accepting the deal,” Shafer said, “I don’t want that to be misunderstood.”
Shafer was represented by attorney Sven Paul.
Shafer is to be sentenced June 21, a proceeding that could see victim-impact statements.
After Shafer’s December 2008 arrest, police showed burglary proceeds to victims, hoping to identify them. Several identified items, including one woman who told of the effects the break in had on her. Months after the break in, she told of not being able to sleep without having the lights on.
Shafer was described as the ringleader, with the break-ins believed to have begun shortly after his release from Albany County jail on Sept. 26, 2008.
Officials credited the arrests to good police work and communication among law enforcement agencies. Schenectady police Detective Anthony DiCarlo was credited with first developing Shafer as a suspect, tracking down an Xbox 360 video game system to Rotterdam and identifying Shafer as the man who sold it, officials said.
Another man charged related to the incident saw evidence against him thrown out in January over a bad search warrant, effectively ending the case against him.
The search warrant used to arrest Paul Sherwood and seize thousands of dollars in alleged stolen goods was tossed after a judicial hearing officer found that city police were not authorized to serve the search warrant past the given 9 p.m. deadline.
The Sherwood ruling, however, had no affect on Shafer’s case. Shafer didn’t live in the home, and didn’t have the same rights to privacy as Sherwood. While the evidence couldn’t be used against Sherwood, it could have still been used against Shafer.