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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 21, 2010

Scam went awry at Crossgates Mall
Man arrested for posing as a fire inspector

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — An Albany man was arrested Saturday for impersonating a fire inspector in order to scam money, and the Guilderland Police helped solve the crime.

Juan Padua-Santiago, 42, of 25 Second Ave. in Albany, was charged with petit larceny, possession of a forged instrument, and criminal impersonation of a public servant; he has a heroin addiction and told detectives he recently relapsed, according to a release from the Albany Police.

“He turned himself in on Saturday,” said Detective James Miller with the Albany Police; this followed several highly publicized incidents.

Most recently, on Jan. 11, he had gone to the Food Mart at 91 Southern Boulevard, showed a badge, and told the owner’s wife he was there to inspect the fire extinguisher, according to the Albany Police; he then put a fake certificate on a fire extinguisher and handed a receipt to the owner’s wife for $40, which she paid.

Several similar incidents had occurred elsewhere in Albany and in Colonie and Guilderland. Additional charges are expected if Padua-Santiago is tied to the other incidents.

On Dec. 8, David Romano, with the Guilderland Police, filed an incident report about a man who had gone to the Dairy Queen at Crossgates Mall and posed as a representative for Albany Fire Extinguisher Sales & Service.

“An employee at the Dairy Queen asked for identification,” said Captain Curtis Cox with the Guilderland Police. “He produced an ID card with a picture and a name. We took that information and could provide it to the Albany and Colonie police,” said Cox, adding, “He had a system that seemed to work for him.”

Cox commended the Dairy Queen worker for asking for identification. The Dairy Queen also called Albany Fire Extinguisher and found out that no one from the company was to be at the Dairy Queen.  “Albany Fire Extinguisher called us so we were able to solve the case,” said Cox.

He urged other businesses, if approached in a similar manner, to do the same.

Don Albright, Guilderland’s chief fire inspector, said that such scams are not unheard of — especially at Crossgates Mall. The town, which has two full-time and one part-time fire inspector, inspects 900 parcels annually.

The town inspectors are readily identifiable, said Albright; they wear uniforms, and carry badges and identification.

The on-site inspector at Crossgates Mall, Bob Monaghan, has reported on perhaps 10 scams he’s been made aware of at Crossgates, mostly in the food court, Albright said.

Fire extinguishers, he said, have to be tagged with inspection information and it is easy to read when the next inspection is due. Someone can then show up, impersonating an inspector. Hoods and fire-suppressant systems also have to be inspected.

“A red flag is if they ask for cash,” said Albright.

The town uses an invoice system where it bills people after the inspection.

“There’s always someone trying to run a scam,” said Albright. “You have to watch out.”

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