Two Suffolk County men were indicted on bias charges after they targeted senior citizens and burglarized their homes in a chimney repair scam, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Bruce Wimmer, 32, of Bohemia and Michael R. Windland, 28, of Holbrook stole jewelry, cash and prescription medication in the burglaries last month, according to an indictment filed against them. Neither company the men claimed to represent existed, prosecutors said.
Each is charged with second-degree burglary as a hate crime, fourth-degree attempted grand larceny as a hate crime and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
Windland confessed and told police he and Wimmer purchased marketing lists and targeted people 70 and older living in their homes for years, District Attorney Thomas Spota said at a news conference.
"Today, seniors are indeed an enticing target," Spota said.
Prosecutors said there are at least two, but likely more, elderly victims, and Suffolk police have established a task force to target "the jackals of this world . . . who are fleecing people," Spota said.
Lawyers for the men entered not guilty pleas before Judge John J. Toomey in Riverhead. Each was held on $500,000 cash or $1 million bond. Their next court date is Sept. 24.
Wimmer's record includes a grand larceny conviction in 2011 for fleecing a Queens woman of $24,000 in a roofing scam, and Windland's record includes a 2005 attempted robbery conviction, prosecutors said.
Windland is licensed and worked for Wimmer, said Windland's attorney, Craig E. McElwee of Hauppauge. He realized "people were being taken advantage of" but didn't realize there had been burglaries, McElwee said.
Wimmer's attorney, Jack Piana of Hauppauge, said his client, who also is licensed, denies any wrongdoing.
A third man, Christopher Washington, 25, of Patchogue pleaded not guilty Wednesday to second-degree burglary of a Lindenhurst home March 18 in the same scam, prosecutors said. He is charged with stealing property from a homeowner, 87, who paid him $1,300. Bail was set at $25,000 cash or $75,000 bond.
Spota said Wilmer and Windland visited a 92-year-old Bellport woman Aug. 16 after someone had called saying she might need chimney work done.
The men quoted her a price of $3,000 and offered to drive her to the bank, which was closed. They promised to return Aug. 18. Police arrested them when they returned.
Marie Compere, 77, of Huntington learned about the Bellport burglary from the news and notified police that she, too, was a victim. Spota said the woman received a call for a free chimney inspection and the pair visited her Aug. 14. The woman told them to leave after she found one man in her bedroom.
Her stolen necklace and a bracelet was recovered from a Centereach pawnshop.
"We're glad that she was able to recover what bit of jewelry they did recover," Karlyne Blain, said of her aunt's possessions, adding that a piece of a necklace, a family heirloom, was not recovered.
Windland, who had been released on bail on the Bellport burglary, was charged in the Huntington case.
In his confession, Spota said, Windland told police: "I know we took advantage of people, but I had to feed my kids and put food on the table."