More Sandy Victim Scammers Busted, Authorities Say

Authorities filed criminal charges and secured lawsuit settlements against three businesses that officials said were involved in separate scams targeting Superstorm Sandy victims on Long Island over the past year.

Among them was 58-year-old Danny Silsbe, a contractor who Long Beach city police arrested for grand larceny after he allegedly took a $10,000 deposit from a family that hired him to raise their house damaged in the storm, but never completed the work or refunded the money, authorities said.

Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs suspended the licenses of Silsbe, the owner of Heavy Construction and Disaster Relief LLC, after a hearing. Police said he had moved to Bay Shore from Arkansas after the storm. His bail was set at $1,000.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also announced a $12,000 penalty against the latest LI gas station—this one in East Islip—for price gouging after the storm and a $40,000 penalty against Bay Shore-based G.C. Environmental, Inc., which mailed to homeowners 2,300 deceptive letters to drum up business after Sandy.

Schneiderman said the environmental company sent letters resembling state Department of Environmental Conservation violation notices to property owners that has petroleum spills during Sandy. The letters warned of $25,000 per day penalties and offered the companies services to clean up the spills to avoid the fines. Most were sent to LI addresses while a third was sent to New York City.

The company got the addresses from a DEC database of reports the agency received regarding nearly 5,000 oil spills after Sandy. The letters mimicked the format, letterhead and DEC logo, giving the impression that the DEC was considering fining the recipients. The DEC was not fining storm victims for spills; it was cleaning up the spills for free.

Schneiderman’s $12,000 penalty against the USA Petroleum on East Main Street in East Islip for illegally increasing prices was also upheld last week by a Suffolk County judge, who found the station raised pre-tax gas prices 35 percent.

The attorney general’s office is continuing its investigation into post-Sandy gas price gouging, already having secured $301,118 in penalties and costs from 44 gas stations in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.