A contractor from Smithtown who scammed Hurricane Sandy victims in Nassau and Suffolk counties out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for home repairs that he never completed was sentenced on Sept. 27 to 45 days in jail and five years’ probation by Acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Bogle. He will serve jail time on the weekends, and was also ordered to pay $50,000 to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.
Lee Moser, 50, was the owner of Capstone Realty Holdings Inc., which did business as Capstone Remodeling, based in Smithtown. He was sentenced after pleading guilty to third-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud on June 1 in connection with complaints from five Nassau homeowners who said he took money for work he never completed. Before his sentencing, Moser paid an additional $50,000 to GOSR.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the sentence.
“Cases like these are especially outrageous because homeowners were victimized first by Superstorm Sandy, and again by their contractor,” Singas said in a news release. “This defendant stole from relief funds that were the lifeline victims needed to rebuild their homes and lives.”
Moser’s attorney, Brian Trodden, did not return phone calls re-questing comment. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Contreras, of the county’s Financial Crimes Bureau, prosecuted the case.
“I’m sorry for my actions and how they affected other people,” Moser said in court in Mineola on Sept. 27, according to Newsday. “I look forward to making restitution.”
Andrew Polizzi, of Bay Park, was one of the homeowners who contracted Capstone and notified the Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs after Moser took money from him and did not complete the job. Polizzi said he was displeased with what he perceived as Moser’s light sentence.
“Justice was not served,” he said, “and that will show other contractors that they can take advantage of homeowners. Many of us were put through enough with the storm, and then to have to be taken advantage of from a contractor is not right.”
Polizzi and his wife, Christine, of West Fulton Street, and Christine’s parents, Donna and Vincent Prisciandaro, who live on Sperry Street, both contracted with Moser.
In an exclusive Herald story in June 2017, titled “Hurricane horrors: Sandy victims say they paid tens of thousands of dollars for work that contractors never did,” the Polizzis and Prisciandaros said they filed complaints against Moser with Consumer Affairs, alleging that he received payments from them to raise their homes and never completed the work.
Donna Prisciandaro said she put down a $27,150 deposit in April 2015 to have her home elevated, but the construction never began. She also showed the Herald copies of the contract and checks given to Capstone. Eventually, another contractor raised her home, but it remained untouched on stilts for 11 months after the work stopped.
The Polizzis said they gave $180,000 to Capstone to raise their home, but the company stopped paying its subcontractors — and they halted work on the house in the middle of the job. Andrew Polizzi said the subcontractors hit him with $50,000 in liens, and he provided the Herald with a copy of one lien for $29,000.
The Polizzis and Prisciandaros were not alone. According to Singas, from April 2015 to August 2016, Moser signed contracts with five Nassau homeowners to perform work on their homes, which had been severely damaged by Sandy. In most of the cases, the homeowners wrote Moser down-payment checks with NY Rising funds, made payable to Capstone Remodeling. NY Rising is a state program run by GOSR that helps homeowners impacted by natural disasters. It has reimbursed Moser’s victims, Singas said, though Polizzi said he and his in-laws have not received compensation.
Instead of doing the work as promised, Moser made excuses as to why it had not started, Singas said, including that he was hospitalized or caring for his sick mother.
In total, he stole more than $113,000. Moser spent the money on gasoline, restaurants, telephone service and other expenditures to continue running his business, unrelated to the homeowners’ contracts, Singas said. Consumer Affairs sent complaints from the five victims to Singas’s office between June 2016 and April 2017, which led to an investigation at the same time that Moser and Capstone were being probed by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office after similar complaints were filed.
Moser was arrested by the Suffolk County Police Department on Oct. 13, 2017, in Riverhead, and charged with grand larceny and scheme to defraud. On July 31, he was sentenced in Suffolk to five years’ probation. On Dec. 19, 2017, he turned himself into Singas’s office to face allegations in Nassau County. In May, he pleaded guilty to five counts of third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and two counts of operating a home-improvement business without a license. At the time, he told Judge Paul Meli that he would pay back the homeowners.
With his house left unfinished and after not being reimbursed, Polizzi said, he was unhappy about the sentencing. “To hear that he only has to serve 45 days on the weekends was a slap in our faces,” he said.