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Nassau contractor accused in Superstorm Sandy home improvement scam

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A New York plumber was charged Thursday with felony fraud and larceny counts after prosecutors said he targeted homeowners whose houses were damaged by Superstorm Sandy in an alleged do-no-work home improvement scam.

David Jensen, 45, of Floral Park, was charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, third-degree and fourth-degree grand larceny and petit larceny. Nassau County district attorney’s investigators arrested him Thursday morning at his home. He was arraigned a few hours later at the Nassau County Court and pleaded not guilty to 10 criminal counts.

He is alleged to have scammed nine homeowners in Nassau and Suffolk counties after promising to repair their home heating systems that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Prosecutors said Jensen would visit the homes and take a deposit. Each of the victims allegedly paid him between $1,000 and $4,200, a district attorney’s office spokesman said.

Prosecutors said Jensen told the victims they would need to get a special part from National Grid in order for him to begin repairing their heating system. Jensen then allegedly took off with their money and never performed any repair work, Assistant District Attorney Marshall Trager said at his arraignment. An investigation was launched after a National Grid customer service representative contacted the district attorney’s office to report complaints from customers who paid for work that was never done, according to Paul Leonard, a spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

A spokeswoman for National Grid said they operate a program that recommends licensed plumbers that may be “helpful to the customer,” but said they are not endorsed by the utility. The spokeswoman, Wendy Ladd, said Jensen’s company was yanked from the program about two years ago “due to complaints.” She said the company recommends that customers check with consumer watchdog groups before signing contracts and giving money to contractors.

Jensen was indicted by a grand jury in April, but wasn’t arrested until Thursday because investigators couldn’t find him, Trager said. Prosecutors said he was arrested at a Floral Park home where he lives with his wife and mother-in-law. Jensen declined to comment and hung his head as detectives led him into the courthouse.

“His business went under; he suffered from this,” said defense lawyer Patrick Kauffman, who fled court after the hearing while refusing to comment on the case. Kauffman asked that his client be released without bail, telling the judge he needed to be working and earning money, in case he would be ordered to repay the alleged stolen cash. He said despite a prior larceny conviction, his client has always come to court.

“Let’s give him 10,000 reasons to show up,” Nassau County Court Judge Anthony Paradiso said before ordering Jensen held on $10,000 cash bail. His lawyer tried to argue for a lower bail amount – first asking for $3,000 and then $5,000 – but the judge refused and told court officers to take Jensen away. He is due back in court on Sept. 12.

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