A couple of con artists looking to fleece susceptible seniors in Marine Park, Mill Basin and Bergen Beach were done in by their own greed, say police who arrested two suspects on Nov. 3.
Albert Casillas, 35, and Douglas Reams, 47, were both hit with burglary and grand larceny charges after they allegedly bilked more than $1,500 from a Bergen Beach couple in a “utility house call” scam — when they returned to the scene of the crime to get paid for the job they didn’t do.
Police say their scam was a simple one: they enlisted a female accomplice to call homes throughout the three neighborhoods pretending to be an employee of a utility company. The woman would say that the company had detected high amounts of carbon monoxide at the home, and would send a team over to investigate.
Cops claim Casillas and Reams would then drive over in a white van with the words “NYS Public Service Gas Heating Inc.” on the side, ring the bell, and claim that they were dispatched from the utility company. Once the victims let them inside, they would secretly disconnect part of the furnace, than tell the victims that it needs to be fixed — at a cost of $1,500 to $2,000
Captain Michael Deddo, the commanding officer of the 63rd Precinct, said that at least five families fell for the scam since Aug. 8.
But cops didn’t learn about the con until mid-September, when sharp residents complained to their local elected officials about cold calls from defunct utilities.
“A few times the female accomplice said she was from Brooklyn Union Gas, which doesn’t even exist anymore,” Deddo said.
Cops spent September and October looking for the charlatans, but they didn’t catch a break until one of their victims played a Halloween trick on them.
The suspects visited a home on E. 72nd Street on Oct. 31 and billed the family $1,500 after they “fixed” a furnace. The homeowner cut the men a check, but, thinking he might have been duped, cancelled it.
Casillas and Reams called the victim back, angered that the check had bounced, according to court records. The victim invited the suspects back to his house to pick up the check — but called 63rd Precinct detectives first.
“We got lucky enough that one of [the victims] called us,” said Deddo. “We arrested them when they rolled up.”
Cops tied Casillas and Reams to two other scams, and the two are facing more than 10 years in jail.
Attempts to reach their attorneys were unsuccessful by Tuesday evening.
Deddo said there could be more victims out there.
“Since these incidents had been so under reported, this could just be the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Anyone with information regarding these string of cons is urged to call the 63rd Precinct Detective Squad at (718) 258-4411. All calls will be kept confidential.
Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-2525.