N.Y. man convicted of postflood fraud

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2007

COURTLAND—A New York man charged with fraudulently collecting money for repairs to flood-damaged businesses in Franklin has been convicted on two counts of obtaining money under false pretenses.

Daniel Disanto of Schenectady, N.Y., was convicted in Southampton County Circuit Court Dec. 18 after a trial before Judge Westbrook J. Parker. Disanto will be sentenced Feb. 26.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the crimes.

Disanto was arrested in March as he and another man were in Franklin attempting to collect money for disaster cleanup work that had been done by a company that briefly employed them during the aftermath of the October 2006 flood.

Disanto and the other man, Stephen Ries of Rensallaer, N.Y., had both worked in sales for ACME Disaster Recovery Services, but both had been let go prior to their springtime visit to Franklin. At the time, they were told not to contact any of the company’s clients.

A company official said in March that the men had taken some of their business cards and used them when they visited ACME’s Franklin customers in March.

Disanto &uot;also had a fraudulent letter that said he had the authority to negotiate a settlement for the money they owed for the job rendered,&uot; ACME Operations Manager Tracy Boomhower said at the time of the arrest.

The men were arrested at Ballance Restoration and Carpet Cleaning on Second Avenue after a downtown business owner alerted police to possible illegal activity.

One business owner, Vic Story of Vic’s Signs & Engraving, said at the time that the men had come to him with a copy of the original bill and a corrected bill and that one of the men was someone he had dealt with all along during the flood cleanup.

Story said at the time that the men had agreed to adjustments based on objections he had raised and that he had been told to make his check payable to both ACME and one of the men.

&uot;He had what I thought was the correct paperwork,&uot; Story said in March. &uot;He had an affidavit stating that the bill was paid in full for the services rendered by ACME.&uot;

Disanto was convicted of trying to collect money without being authorized by the company to do so. Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke said last week that the victim’s money had been returned.

A judge in General District Court refused to certify charges for Ries, who is now thought to be back in New York.

Disanto’s convictions are the latest developments in a tale of woe that began for many downtown Franklin merchants when a nor’easter struck hard in Isle of Wight, sending water gushing down the Blackwater River, which crested its banks in Franklin, flooding much of the downtown area.

The New York-based ACME joined forces with Franklin’s Ballance Restoration to help speed up the local recovery efforts.

In the end, though, many business owners were surprised at the bills they received and frustrated over the services that were provided.

Company officials admitted that there had been some problems with the work that was done in Franklin.