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Five plead guilty to conning elderly out of $14K

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Four men and a woman known as Scottish travelers pleaded guilty Friday to charges of duping a handful of elderly Queens residents into letting them enter their homes, then stealing money and jewelry or convincing them to write checks for work that would never be performed.

All of the victims were elderly, ranging in age from 69 to 87, and live in Forest Hills, Astoria, Rosedale and other Queens neighborhoods, said Richard Brown, the Queens district attorney. In all, the defendants admitted to committing five burglaries in July and September 1999, in which they would pose by turns as city employees, chimney sweeps, roofers and Con-Edison workers who were sent to perform repairs on the houses, the district attorney said.     

All told, the defendants stole a total of $14,000 from the residents, which they must pay back to the victims, in addition to serving jail time, Brown said. The district attorney’s office identified the defendants as John Miller, 36, of Queens; Sonny John, 31, of Queens; Stacey Christo, 27, of Whitestone; Rocky Miller, 40, of Illinois; and Dewey Miller, 40, of Illinois.

All of the defendants, except for Rocky Miller, pleaded guilty last week to second-degree attempted burglary and are to be sentenced in April to 2 1/2 years in prison, Brown said. Having pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary, Rocky Miller is to be sentenced to 3 1/2 years, the district attorney said.

In many of the incidents, Brown said, the defendants impersonated workers who said they were sent to the victims’ houses to perform home improvements. Once inside, they rummaged through the victims’ belongings, stealing both money and jewelry, he said. In other cases, he said, they accepted payments from the victims with a guarantee of performing work, promises that were simply a ruse.

In particular, the district attorney mentioned one incident that happened on Sept. 13, 1999, in which the defendants showed up at a 72-year-old Rosedale man’s house, posing as officials from the mayor’s office. Telling him that the city would soon be hit by a hurricane, the defendants said that they were sent by the mayor to secure homes in the neighborhood, Brown said, and that they had to collect a $1,000 fee, a sum that the man paid.

The district attorney’s office could not provide the names of the defendants’ attorneys by press time and thus could not be reached for comment. None of the defendants were listed, except for John Miller. He could not be reached for comment, however.

In early January, a 68-year-old Flushing man was charged in a similar string of incidents, in which he was accused of passing himself off to elderly Queens residents as a Con Edison employee and then burglarizing their homes, the district attorney said.

The man, Nick Nicholas, was charged in three incidents but is also suspected of committing six others, the district attorney said. He was charged with three counts of burglary, criminal impersonation and petit larceny, and one count of robbery, Brown said. If convicted, Nicholas faces up to 15 years in prison in two of the cases, and up to 25 years in the third, Brown said.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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