Three charged in fraud scheme

Staff Reports

ALBANY — Three men were charged in a 17-count indictment Oct. 5 for their roles in a large-scale contractor fraud scheme perpetrated against dozens of unsuspecting homeowners and businesses across Fulton and Montgomery counties.

Robert Decker, also known as Bob Dale, 66; Scott Driscoll, 44; and Robert Langlais, 67, are accused of defrauding dozens of homeowners and businesses.

The indictment charged Decker and Driscoll jointly with one count of second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony; 12 counts of third-degree grand larceny, class D felonies; and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony; Langlais is jointly charged with first-degree scheme to defraud and one count of third-degree grand larceny. Driscoll and Langlais are jointly charged with three counts of first-degree falsifying business records, a class E felony.

“Many of these victims invested their life savings so that they could improve their homes for themselves and their families, but instead of building newer and safer homes, all that these three defendants built was a house of lies,” said state Attorney General Letitia James in a news release. “We won’t allow anyone to take advantage of and steal from innocent New Yorkers trying to build better lives for themselves.”

A joint investigation by the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Police’s Financial Crimes Unit began in the summer of 2019 after numerous homeowners filed complaints with the New York State Police and the OAG’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

“Our joint investigation found that these individuals took hundreds of thousands of dollars from homeowners and instead of performing work as promised, diverted funds for their own personal use,” said state police Superintendent Keith Corlett. “We will not tolerate this illegal behavior, and I applaud the work of our members and our partners at the Attorney General’s Office for holding these bad actors accountable and bringing a measure of justice for the victims.”

According to statements by the OAG and documents filed in court, between at least May 2018 and October 2019, Decker and Driscoll operated SJR Enterprises, LLC as a home improvement contracting company. The indictment laid out how the two defendants fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of upstate homeowners for home improvement work they never performed or failed to properly perform, as well as nearly $100,000 in fraudulent loans and materials never paid for as promised.

Police said they then diverted the money for personal gain, including nearly $400,000 in cash withdrawals and payments to themselves, nearly $150,000 to pay personal and business debts, and over $50,000 in retail purchases through iTunes and Amazon, and at numerous restaurants.

According to the indictment, several homeowners obtained substantial loans to pay for work the defendants either never performed or improperly completed and several homeowners were left with houses that were uninhabitable. One victim paid more than $25,000 to install plumbing and electricity, but the work was never performed, leaving her without plumbing, electricity, and heat through the entire winter of 2019.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that another homeowner obtained a U.S. Housing and Urban Development 203k loan to fund $89,000 in renovations.

Decker and Driscoll allegedly fraudulently obtained and diverted nearly $25,000 of the homeowner’s loan funds for materials, and then spent the remainder on personal expenditures.

Under the 203k program, the homeowner’s lending institution required the homeowner to obtain a certified HUD consultant to carefully inspect and review the work performed by Driscoll and Decker for quality before disbursing the loan funds to SJR.

The homeowner hired Langlais as the consultant who fraudulently signed off on roof work that had not been performed, windows that were improperly installed and broken, a furnace that did not work, and more than $5,000 of cleanup costs, when, in fact, the defendants failed to remove debris from the property.

After these “renovations,” the homeowner was left living in a house with no siding, broken windows, no working kitchen, and old windows and siding strewn across the yard. The home was left in this disarray for more than eight months.

In 2003, following numerous complaints from homeowners, the OAG obtained a consent order that permanently enjoined Decker from operating as a home improvement contractor in the state of New York unless he filed a $100,000 performance bond with the OAG. Decker has never filed such a bond.

If convicted, Decker and Driscoll each face up to 10 to 20 years in prison, and Langlais faces up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

Driscoll and Langlais were released pending trial and Decker was released with electronic monitoring.

The Financial Crimes Unit continues to investigate, as there may be more victims who have not yet come forward.

If you believe you may have been a victim, you are asked to contact the State Police Financial Crimes Unit at (518) 786-2192.

By Paul Wager