By Sara-Megan Walsh
A Smithtown contractor has pled guilty to scamming Hurricane Sandy victims out of more than $100,000, according to the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Lee Moser, 49, pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, and first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony, June 1 in Nassau County Supreme Court before Justice Robert Bogle.
“Superstorm Sandy savaged our communities, and contractors who defraud those who suffered from the storm’s wrath are especially despicable,” District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a press statement. “This unscrupulous defendant took his victims’ money to help them rebuild, regaled them with excuses for delay and never performed the work.”
From April 2015 to August 2016, Moser signed contracts with five Nassau County homeowners to perform work on their homes that have been severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to Singas. In most of these cases, the defendants wrote Moser a down payment check for the work, using funds from New York Rising, made payable to his business Capstone Remodeling.
New York Rising is the state-run program that assists homeowners impacted by natural disasters. The homeowners had applied for and received money from New York Rising to rehabilitate their homes after they were damaged by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.
Instead of performing the contracted work, Moser repeatedly provided excuses as to why his business had not started, such as he was in the hospital or caring for his sick mother, according to prosecutors. In total, Singas said he is suspected of stealing $113,485 from Nassau homeowners. Moser allegedly spent these funds on gasoline, dining at restaurants, telephone services and other expenditures to continue running his construction business that were unrelated to the homeowners’ contracts, according to the district attorney’s office.
The Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs received five complaints from victims of Capstone Remodeling between June 2016 and April 2017, which were forwarded to the district attorney’s office. An investigation immediately commenced.
To date, the district attorney said that Moser is currently an unlicensed contractor and has not attempted to repay any of the homeowners.
Moser is due back in court July 12, where he is expected to be sentenced to 45 days in jail and five years of probation, if he pays $50,000 in restitution to New York Rising and pays the remaining amount while on probation. If he does not pay restitution, he would be sentenced to one year in jail, according to the district attorney’s office.