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What you need to know for 03/23/2017

Capital Region scam ring leader gets 8 to 16 years

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Capital Region scam ring leader gets 8 to 16 years

A man who has made it his career to prey on others, particularly the aged and infirm, received up to
Capital Region scam ring leader gets 8 to 16 years
Career criminal Henry Hicks, left, appears in Albany County Court Friday for sentencing. With him is defense attorney John Spencer.

A man who has made it his career to prey on others, particularly the aged and infirm, received up to 16 years in state prison Friday for his latest crimes.

Henry Hicks, 58, appeared in Albany County Court, among five people who admitted to taking part in an elder scam ring.

Hicks received a total of 8 to 16 years for his leading role in the operation that scammed at least $40,000 out of victims.

He appeared to expect less, lashing out at the judge after appearing contrite in his statement to the court.

Hicks, who has operated previous scams in Schenectady County, frequently was at the center of the ring, authorities have said. His convictions date back to at least 1991.

Hicks told the judge that he took “full responsibility” for what he did and he did it to feed his drug addiction “because I didn’t have no other skills.”

“I’m sorry and I have a lot of remorse,” Hicks said.

Judge Roger McDonough, citing Hicks’ history, said he didn’t believe Hicks felt true remorse, “because that’s your entire career, a thief.”

“It appears prison is the only place you can exist in a manner where you don’t prey on fellow citizens,” the judge said.

Hicks’ involvement in the conspiracy started Aug. 17, 2014 — three weeks after he was released from prison on a previous elder scam. In that case, Hicks victimized a 92-year-old Schenectady man on Jan. 6, 2011.

The sentence was just under the 9- to 18-year cap of his grand larceny plea deal. The minimum was 2 to 6. Prosecutors recommended a mid-range sentence in exchange for Hicks’ cooperation.

After handing down the sentence, McDonough asked Hicks if he understood a document, to which Hicks replied that he didn’t care about the document, or anything else.

“I don’t care about [expletive],” an agitated Hicks said.

“Well,” the judge responded, “you’ve got 8 to 16 years to not care about that.”

In all, police accused six people of taking part in the ring, targeting older residents of Albany County for overpriced, shoddy and unneeded home repairs. Prosecutors indicted each under the hate crime statute for targeting victims because of their age and infirmity.

The youngest victim was 66, the oldest 93.

All six have pleaded guilty to related crimes. McDonough sentenced five of them Friday and was unforgiving.

McDonough gave Brian Barr, 37, of Schenectady, a total of 6 to 12 years, the maximum possible under his plea deal for fourth-degree grand larceny as a hate crime and fifth-degree conspiracy as a hate crime, felonies.

“You, sir, are a scoundrel, you’re a villain,” McDonough told Barr. “And you’re particularly a villain because you picked the most vulnerable individuals to victimize, the elderly or the mentally infirm.”

One victim and two of their relatives spoke at the sentencings. Two others offered written statements.

Sandra Zerrillo spoke on behalf of her uncle, who was scammed out of thousands of dollars in cash and computer equipment by three of the defendants.

“What you did to my uncle and the numerous other elderly individuals you victimized is unconscionable and disgusting,” Zerrillo told the defendants. “You are heartless individuals who deliberately sought out the frail and the infirm and preyed upon them for your own selfish personal gain.”

Also sentenced Friday:

Susan Barr, 58, of Altamont, received 2 to 4 years for conspiracy as a hate crime. She is Brian Barr’s mother.

Jessica Paradiso, 28, of Schenectady, received 6 to 12 years for third-degree attempted grand larceny and conspiracy as a hate crime.

John Risto, 61, address unavailable, received 1 to 3 years for conspiracy as a hate crime.

A sixth defendant, John Waterson, 38, of Albany faces up to 3.5 to 7 years at his April sentencing.

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