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Man in stolen pickup takes ‘deposits’ for bogus tree work, cops say

John Murphy said on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016,

John Murphy said on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016, he gave a cash deposit to a man in a pickup who offered to trim his trees at a price that sounded too good to be true. It was. Credit: John Murphy

Two Suffolk homeowners are warning others about a tree-trimming impostor who disappeared with their cash down payments after talking them into contracts “too good to be true.”

After getting “multiple” reports of the scammer, Suffolk police have advised residents to check out tree service workers who knock on doors and call the company to confirm their employment. Police said tree trimming businesses usually don’t take down payments but collect their pay after the work is done.

“I’d like to get my hands on him,” said Evamarie DeGennaro, 36, a single mother and office assistant from North Babylon.

She had tried to turn away the man when he arrived in a Ford pickup with an Illinois license plate and banged on her door at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, but he convinced her he’d give her a deal because he needed to make extra money: “Can you believe it?” she said he told her. “At 52, I had twins.”

He offered to cut down nine trees for $800 — a staggering discount from the earlier $5,000 estimate she had received from another company. She signed the work contract, took his business card and let him drive her to 7-Eleven so she could get $200 in cash for the down payment.

But when he didn’t arrive Thursday to do the work, DeGennaro said, she called the company, Leon Tree Service and Landscaping in Coram, and learned from the owner knew the man, who had stolen the truck from him.

“He stole my truck,” the owner texted her. “If you see him, call police officer.”

The business owner confirmed his vehicle and business forms had been stolen and said the police are looking for the suspect. He declined to be identified or to comment further.

In East Farmingdale, a 50-foot oak tree — wide enough to hide two people standing side by side — has been dying for 10 years in a side yard of John Murphy’s home, which the scammer visited Dec. 22.

“I worry that one winter day, it’s going to fall down on the house,” said Murphy, 63, a retired auto mechanic on disability.

But he never had the $2,000 to clear it out and thought he was lucky when a man in a Ford pickup said he wanted to make extra Christmas money.

“If you let me do it tomorrow, I’ll give you the best price you ever heard,” Murphy said the scammer told him.

He offered to cut down two trees, trim the hedges and rake the leaves for $900, the homeowner said, and Murphy handed him a $350 cash deposit for the next day’s work. No one turned up.

Murphy said he’s bothered by the blatant fraud.

“Besides being on disability, I haven’t had money to do certain things,” he said. “He threw out the bait, and I swallowed the hook.”

The Sixth Precinct crime section said any victims or anyone with information should call 631-854-8627.

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