Willsey offered plea deal for three felonies

ALTAMONT — Kevin R. Willsey, who was indicted in July on three felony counts — two for criminal possession of stolen property and one for illegal possession of a vehicle identification number — will appear in Albany County Supreme Court on Aug. 28 before Judge Thomas Breslin.

While Cecilia Logue, spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case, said she could not comment on any plea deal, Altamont’s police chief, Todd Pucci, said Willsey had been offered six months of prison time with five years of probation.

“The offer is what it is because he has no prior arrests, so I’d call it a fair offer,” said Pucci.

He added, “I believe it is in full satisfaction of all criminal charges.”

Willsey, 31, lives on Main Street in the village, across from the auto-repair garage where he had worked. That garage burned to the ground on June 5. Altamont’s fire chief, Robert White, who battled the blaze in the wee hours of the morning, described it as “one big fireball.”

Logue would not comment on her office’s investigation of the fire, saying only, “It is still open and pending.”

Pucci noted that Willsey had since been arrested by Altamont Police for a violation and will appear in Altamont Village Court for that charge. Willsey was arrested on June 24 for harassment; the arrest report says that, on June 16, in the Stewart’s parking lot, he harassed Geoffrey Brown.

In November 2010, Ron Gizzi, the long-time owner of Ron’s Service Station, who lives now in Tennessee, entered into a contract with Brown who wanted to buy the service center. Willsey, a mechanic, had run his Altamont Extreme Auto business out of the center.

“He was supposed to have sold the building,” Nicole Strippoli, Brown’s lawyer, said in June of Gizzi.

She went on, “There’s an ongoing case in Supreme Court with regards to the contractual relationship between Mr. Brown and Mr. Willsey.”

Brown told The Enterprise in June, “Ron met with Kevin and his mother, Maura Willsey, secretly and sells the building out from under me.”

Maura Willsey, he said, did business as a company named Twilight Management.

Neither Kevin Willsey nor Maura Willsey could be reached for comment.

Gizzi told The Enterprise the afternoon of June 5 that, after learning of the fire, he had contacted the insurance company, Nationwide, and said of the management company, “They did have insurance on the building. They are covered.”

Describing his role with the property now, Gizzi said, “I am the bank,” meaning that he holds the mortgage.

Once the insurance settlement is made, Gizzi said, the management company would pay off the balance of the mortgage and have the rest “free and clear.”

Chop-shop “customer”

This spring, Willsey was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, illegal possession of a vehicle identification number, both felonies, and fourth-degree criminal solicitation, a misdemeanor.

He was also charged with three misdemeanors related to environmental conservation laws.

“He was not operating a chop shop but he knew those who were,” Pucci said at the time of Willsey’s arrest. A chop shop is a place where stolen cars are dismantled into parts that are then sold.

“He was a customer, not the business,” said Pucci of the charges pertaining to Willsey. “He would remark to certain persons, ‘Hey, I could sure use a skid steer.’ He was aware of what he was doing.”

A skid-steer loader is a vehicle with mechanical arms capable of performing a variety of tasks; it is steered through a skid-line motion — hence the name.

The Altamont Police began investigating Willsey on Dec. 16, 2011 after Altamont Officer Christopher Laurenzo recognized a skid-steer in the auto center’s parking lot at 127 Main Street, matching a description posted by State Police earlier that morning.

It was reported stolen from the town of Worcester in Otsego county and cost about $28,000, police said.

When Laurenzo checked the loader’s identification number, he found it matched the stolen vehicle’s.  Police then discovered Willsey was in possession of another suspected stolen vehicle, a tow truck, which had its identification number modified.

“He, like a lot of truck drivers, was on call for Guilderland. That means he was actually showing up at accident scenes, with police there, and taking vehicles away with his stolen flatbed,” said Pucci in April.

After the Altamont Police found aspects of the case sprawling into other jurisdictions, Pucci said, he contacted other law-enforcement agencies to begin a joint investigation. The State Police, the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles Auto Theft Task Force, and the Department of Environmental Conservation were all involved.

In April, Willsey had pleaded not guilty in Altamont Village Court to all the charges against him.

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