Attorney General James and Acting State Police Superintendent Nigrelli Announce Sentencing of Serial Fraudster
Robert Decker Sentenced to Up to 9 Years in Prison for Defrauding Dozens
of Homeowners Out of More Than $800,000 and Stealing
Over $5,000 in CARES Act Unemployment Funds
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and Acting New York State Police Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli today announced the sentencing of Robert Decker (also known as Bob Dale), 66, of Amsterdam, NY for operating a massive contractor fraud scheme. Mr. Decker cheated dozens of homeowners and businesses across upstate New York out of more than $800,000, and also stole over $5,000 in unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He previously pleaded guilty before Judge Andra Ackerman in Albany County Court to two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony. Mr. Decker was sentenced today to 4 1/2 to 9 years in prison and agreed to pay judgments of over $350,000, which is the remaining amount owed to the impacted homeowners.
“After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into improving their homes and building better lives, these New Yorkers discovered they were cruelly cheated,” said Attorney General James. “Not content with defrauding New York homeowners out of their money, Robert Decker decided to double down on his crimes by stealing thousands of COVID-19 relief payments from taxpayers. I thank the New York State Police for their coordination with my office throughout this investigation. I will always stand up for New Yorkers and our taxpayers, and my office will hold anyone who cheats or steals accountable for their actions.”
“I want to thank the Attorney General’s office for their strong partnership that has led to the sentencing of Mr. Decker. Our joint investigation found this individual preyed on unsuspecting homeowners by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars for contracting that he never performed, leaving some with unlivable conditions,” said Acting Superintendent Nigrelli. “Mr. Decker also stole thousands from the CARES Act from those New Yorkers that honestly need it, all for his own selfish gain. This sentencing should serve as a reminder that those who carry out financial schemes of any kind will not be tolerated and brought to justice.”
Today’s sentencing is the result of a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau (CEFC) and the New York State Police’s (NYSP) Financial Crimes Unit, which began in the summer of 2019 after numerous homeowners filed complaints with OAG and NYSP. Between at least May 2018 and October 2019, Decker served as primary estimator for SJR Enterprises, LLC (SJR), an entity owned by co-defendant Scott Driscoll. Decker and Driscoll operated SJR as a home improvement contracting company, through which they fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of homeowners for home improvement work they never conducted or failed to properly do. 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.
Several homeowners were left with houses that were uninhabitable. One victim alone paid over $25,000 to install plumbing and electricity in an Albany brownstone, but the work was never done, leaving her without plumbing, electricity, and heat over the winter of 2019. Another homeowner secured a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 203k loan to fund $89,000 in renovations, but Decker and Driscoll fraudulently diverted nearly $25,000 of the homeowner’s loan funds for materials and spent the remainder on other 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 conducted by Driscoll and Decker for quality before disbursing the loan funds to SJR. The homeowner hired Decker’s other co-defendant, Robert Langlais, as the consultant, who fraudulently signed off on roof work that had not been done, windows that were broken and improperly installed, a furnace that did not work, and over $5,000 in cleanup costs, when in fact, it was caused by the defendants’ failure to remove debris from the property. After all these “renovations,” the homeowner was left living in a house with no siding, broken window frames, and no working kitchen.
In October 2020, Decker was arraigned in Albany County Court, where he, Driscoll, and Langlais were charged with numerous felony offenses in connection with their crimes. Decker and Driscoll were charged jointly with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 12 counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony. Langlais was jointly charged with one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class D and class E felony, respectively. Driscoll and Langlais were jointly charged with three counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony.
After Decker’s arraignment, OAG and NYSP learned that he had been fraudulently collecting unemployment insurance funds under the CARES Act, while working for National Home Exteriors — an Athens, New York-based home improvement contractor — since August 2020. The joint investigation by OAG and NYSP revealed that Decker had been paid over $22,000 by National Home Exteriors for his work securing home improvement contracts from customers, while he was simultaneously falsely certifying each week that he was not working. This allowed Decker to fraudulently claim as much as $800 per week in unemployment insurance from the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) over a 10-week period, including after he had been released under electronic monitoring on his indictment.
In December 2020, Decker was arraigned on a second Albany County Court indictment, in which he was charged with offenses relating to his unemployment fraud crimes, including one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and 10 counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony. Decker’s guilty pleas ultimately came after his co-defendants, Scott Driscoll and Robert Langlais, pleaded guilty in June last year. Driscoll pleaded guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, and agreed to pay judgments totaling over $350,000 as part of his plea. Langlais pleaded guilty to one count of Scheme to Defraud in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, and agreed to relinquish his HUD consulting license. Driscoll was sentenced today to 2 1/3 to 7 years’ incarceration and agreed to pay $350,000 in judgements and Langlais was sentenced to a Conditional Discharge and ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution.
The OAG thanks NYSP and NYSDOL for their valuable assistance in these investigations. In addition to audit work provided by NYSP and NYSDOL, audit work was conducted by former Principal Auditor Investigator Meaghan Scotellaro, under the direction of Chief Auditor Kristen Fabbri and Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro.
This case was prosecuted by CEFC Assistant Attorneys General Philip V. Apruzzese and John R. Healy and former Special Counsel Benjamin S. Clark, with the assistance of Legal Support Analysts Jamirah Williams-Johnson and Stephanie Lee, under the supervision of Supervising Analyst Paul Strocko and Deputy Supervising Analyst Jayleen Garcia. CEFC is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph G. D’Arrigo.
The OAG investigation was conducted by Detective Supervisor Mitchell Paurowski and Detectives Timothy Sicko and Mark Terra, under the supervision of Assistant Chief/Executive Officer Samuel Scotellaro and Deputy Chief/Commanding Officer Edward Carrasco of the Major Investigations Unit. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes. Both CEFC and the Investigations Bureau are part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.
The homeowner complaints were initially received by OAG’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Jane Azia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo. Both the Divisions for Criminal Justice and Economic Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.