Housing vendor charged with stealing money in Rensselaer County

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A husband and wife are facing felony charges after being accused of stealing from Rensselaer County and New York state taxpayers.

The allegations stem from an apartment building at 68 Brunswick Rd. with the alleged crimes stretching back to 1999.

Rensselaer County officials say for decades Gene Cook and his wife Julie rented out the apartments to indigent parolees who were sent to them by the county. The monthly rent was covered by tax payer dollars.

Things seemed above board until an investigator with Rensselaer County’s recently formed Social Services fraud unit noticed the Cook’s tax returns. They allegedly reflected a taxable income less than $2,000 instead of the more than $107,000 the county claims they owed.

The case was referred to the DA’s office, where again, more was exposed.

A prosecutor dedicated to financial crimes discovered the Cook’s had also allegedly stolen more than $207,000 from social services in the form of unreturned security deposits – money they were supposed to return if a parolee was evicted due to being re-arrested.

“The money is from county taxpayers, and that’s a big issue.”

DA Joel Abelove claims it had been going on for almost 18 years.

“This is an instance where something pops up and when and so this is one area that this unit is looking at,” Kathleen Jimino, Rensselaer County Executive, said.

The couple was indicted by a grand jury on charges of Grand Larceny and criminal tax fraud.

Both pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

The Cook’s attorney, Fred Rench, tolds NEWS10 ABC that his clients claim they routinely provided reports on deposits they intended to keep, which the county never objected to. He says the couple is surprised by the indictment and wishes to work with Rensselaer County to better understand the issue and to resolve it.

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