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7 allegedly ripped off older Albany County homeowners

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7 allegedly ripped off older Albany County homeowners

Prosecutors say a ring of seven people bilked older Albany County residents for thousands of dollars
7 allegedly ripped off older Albany County homeowners
Seven people have been charged in relation to an alleged hate crime ring in Albany.
Photographer: Albany County District Attorney&rsquo;s Office

Henry Hicks approached a 67-year-old man at the Colonie resident’s home last August and was seemingly helpful, police said Friday.

The resident’s foundation needed repair, Hicks told the resident, according to police. The resident was in luck, too, because Hicks and his co-worker, John Waterson, could do the work for him.

By the time Hicks and Waterson were done with the man, he had handed over more than $13,000, police said.

“When the repairs were inspected,” Colonie police Lt. Robert Winn said Friday, “they were modest, at best. They certainly overcharged him by a considerable amount of money.”

Hicks, 58, and Waterson, 37, both of Albany, were later charged with grand larceny and other crimes, part of what prosecutors now believe was a ring of seven people that bilked older Albany County residents for thousands of dollars in unneeded or bogus repair work last year.

Authorities have found 10 victims in all, according to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, who announced the indictments this week. The youngest victim is 66, the oldest 93.

At the center of the ring, according to the indictments, was Hicks, a man who has a long history of scams and swindles targeting older residents in Albany and Schenectady counties and elsewhere.

This time, though, he’s facing a prison term of as much as 9 to 18 years, having pleaded guilty to multiple charges earlier this month in Albany County Court.

Hicks is one of two defendants who have already pleaded guilty to related charges; Waterson is the other. Waterson faces as much as 31⁄2 to 7 years in prison at his June sentencing. Hicks is to be sentenced in July.

Cases against the other five, one of them 27-year-old Schenectady resident Jessica Paladiso, remain pending.

The district attorney’s office is prosecuting the allegations as hate crimes, making several of the charges more serious. State law allows for hate crimes to be charged if the victims were selected by one of 10 classes, ranging from race to sexual orientation and including age.

One of the charges Hicks pleaded guilty to was third-degree grand larceny as an age-based hate crime.

Members of the group are accused of targeting older residents in Colonie, Albany and Bethlehem at different points last year. They allegedly scammed them on home repairs and driveway coating, as well as computer work.

According to the indictments, Hicks was often at the center of the crimes “by communicating with co-conspirators of locations and/or people that were elderly and susceptible to overpaying for incomplete construction projects.”

The conspiracy counts cover acts from February through November 2014. Hicks’ involvement started Aug. 17, three weeks after he was released from prison on an elder scam conviction. In that case, Hicks victimized a 92-year-old Schenectady man on Jan. 6, 2011.

A co-defendant approached the victim at the Rotterdam Price Chopper and pretended to be his old paperboy. It turned into another bogus repair scam, this one netting $750. A relative alerted police.

Hicks accepted a plea deal in that case that resulted in a 31⁄2-year prison term. He also told a judge then that he was addicted to heroin and crack cocaine. He was released to parole supervision July 23.

That scam was just the latest of several convictions over the years, including one from 1991 where he helped bilk $86,000 from a 74-year-old Rotterdam man as payment for work authorities said was worth only $3,500. He was sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison in that case.

Also indicted in the Albany County case:

• Frank Chrysler, 49, of Watervliet, faces four counts of fourth-degree grand larceny as an age-based hate crime and other charges.

• John Risto, 60, address unavailable, faces one count of fourth-degree grand larceny as an age-based hate crime and other charges.

• Paladiso faces two counts each of third-degree grand larceny and second-degree burglary, both as age-based hate crimes and other charges. She is accused of entering residences under false pretenses. Paladiso was accused federally in 2008 of bilking a 95-year-old Schenectady woman out of more than $1,500, records show. The outcome of that case wasn’t clear Friday.

• Susan Barr, 57, of Altamont was charged with one count of third-degree grand larceny as an age-based hate crime and other charges.

• Brian Barr, age and address unavailable, was charged with multiple counts of second-degree burglary as an age-based hate crime, accused of entering residences under false pretenses.

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