After a lengthy investigation, Naugatuck police have arrested a 26-year-old New York man whom they believe tried to scam a 73-year-old borough resident.
A Grove Street woman said a man contacted her in June saying he was cleaning chimneys in the area at a discounted rate, police said. He said he could offer her a 50-percent off discount because it was the spring season, according to police.
When the man arrived at the woman's house, he looked at the chimney and told her there was something structurally wrong with it, police said. He went through a laundry list of problems and said they would cost $1,200 to repair, said Lt. Bryan Cammarata, Naugatuck police spokesman.
“The woman agrees and gives the man a check of $600 as a deposit,” he said. “When the man comes back, he says it would cost an additional $1,200 worth of work to fix all of the supposed problems with the chimney. By now, the woman realizes something is wrong and calls us.”
Naugatuck Officer Andre Moutella took a report and got Detective Jay Pugliese involved. Pugliese contacted the Fire Marshal and the Building Inspector’s office. The building inspector investigated and said the chimney looked fine; he said all the man did was put a tray on the concrete foundation at the base of the chimney.
Furthermore, the building inspector said the way the tray was installed could have caused a block in the ventilation system. It also could have potentially caused harmful amounts of carbon monoxide to fill inside the house, the police report states.
Police discovered that the contractor, Patrick Webb, of 24 Lakeview Drive, Middle Island, N.Y., had a legitimate contractor’s license but was not properly licensed for some of the work he performed and promised to perform.
He was charged with willful performance of craftsmen work without a license; second-degree larceny of a victim more than 60 years old; conspiracy at second-degree larceny; first-degree reckless endangerment and violation of state building codes.
He was held on a $25,000 bond and appeared at Waterbury Superior Court on Wednesday.
Webb may have been involved in similar scams across Connecticut and New York, police said.
In June, a Meriden business owner contacted Channel 3 Eyewitness News in Connecticut claiming that he had been the target of a similar scam orchestrated by Webb.
Naugatuck Tries to Educate Seniors About How to Protect Themselves
In the Borough, the organization Naugatuck TRIAD works to educate seniors about possible scams they may encounter. Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi is the founder and chairwoman of that group, which is a collaboration of first responders, the business community and seniors who promote senior safety programming.
“The number-one thing we tell seniors when we are out in front of them is don’t be afraid to be assertive and to ask questions,” she said. “You are paying for a service, you need to question it. You should be asking for a license. You should be asking for references. It’s OK to doubt what someone is telling you.”
She said seniors were raised and taught at a time in which manners were really important.
“They are of the mindset that you don’t close a door on someone, or hang up on someone,” she said. “And these scammers know that about our seniors and they use that to their advantage."
She said seniors should never be afraid to be persistent and insistent when someone knocks on their door or calls them trying to sell them something.
“There are plenty of reputable craftsmen and businesses out there and if they are reputable, they will not have an issue with providing the appropriate licensing and legal documentation they need to conduct business, plus references,” she said.
“Unfortunately we’re living in a society where we have to be suspicious. That is the hardest thing for us to get across to seniors. They want to believe that people are inherently good, and unfortunately we are finding that some people are just not. It infuriates me that these people really do use that to their advantage.”
How to avoid being scammedThe FBI compiles a list of common fraud schemes and ways to avoid being victimized. Click here to read that information.