In October, 2003, home owner (and landlord, entrepeneur) Michael Casadei wanted a better security system for his residence, in the City’s Historic Stockade District. He gave the job to a man who called himself Kevin Graham, although “Graham” (who was later identified as Kevin Skoog) “could provide no references or other credentials” and said he had just arrived in town from North Carolina and “was down on his luck.”
As Skoog worked in the Casadei basement, “he came across some loose bricks, behind which he found a bag,” that Skoog recalls contained “stacks and stacks of hundred dollar bills” that smelled old and looked old.
Skoog says Casadei told him the house had once been the home of Marvin Friedman, who died more than a decade ago, and who was the “founder and former owner of the venerable Van Dyck Restaurant” [and jazz club], which is located next to the residence. Skoog insists Casadei confided that Friedman might have hidden money in the house.
Skoog concluded the money wasn’t Casadei’s, he told authorities, and decided it was his to take. According to the Gazette, because Casadei had only owned the house for four months, Skoog’s attorney Paul M. Callahan “questioned how the cash could get so smelly and musty in such a short period of time.”
Skoog is also quoted as feeling “blessed,” and “promptly went on a spending spree, buying a new motorcycle, a used SUV, another car, rings and other items.” Schenectady County Sheriff Harry Buffardi notes “He was spending like a drunken sailor.”
Casadei immediately realized the money was missing and hired a private investigator who learned “Graham”‘s real identity. There was an outstanding warrant for Skoog in Monroe County, NY, for felony weapons possession (for which Skoog as since served one year). Casadei went to the Sheriff and gave him information that turned out to be correct as to the amount of money and who had it. Skoog was arrested, turned over about $20,000 hidden under a carpet in his apartment, and took the authorities to a tree in a nearby woods, where he had buried over $100,000 in $100 bills in Tupperware.
Casadei offered not to press charges if the money were returned, but Skoog claimed ownership and was charged with one count of second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a felony. However, Skoog was not indicted within the required six months, and charges were dropped.
Buffardi, “with a total of $130,000 in smelly, musty $100 bills sitting around, deposited the money in the bank by summer” of 2004. Wanting his money back, Casadei sued in the local Supreme [trial] Court. “Apparently without a clear accounting of the bills, Friedman’s heirs and Skoog filed their own claims on the cash.”
As of Friday, Dec. 10, 2004, neither Sheriff Buffardi nor attorneys for the three parties believed that photographs of the bills existed.
But photos were discovered Friday afternoon as Buffardi went through the criminal file with a reporter.
“Thirteen stacks of cash are visible in the evidence photo. Twelve of them are topped with large, offset portraits of Benjamin Franklin, meaning that these ‘Benjamins’ were produced no earlier than 1996.
Counsel for the Friedman heirs, Albany attorney Harlan Harrison, expressed surprise when hearing about the existence of a photograph of the money, saying “If that’s true, that would be important.” He declined to discuss the implications.
Skoog’s attorney, Callahan, said the photo doesn’t explain who put the cash there or where it’s been since 1996. Callahan points to a case from the 1960s, where a plumber found $5000 behind a toilet in a home in Buffalo, NY, and the money was awarded to the plumber, not the homeowner.
Casadei’s lawyer, Adam G. Parisi, says that case doesn’t apply and the photo negates the other claims to his client’s money, although a final resolution could take as long as a year. Casadei states that people “that don’t have any scruples . . . want to try and steal my money.”
The Gazette article notes:
The money, the 49-year-old Casadei said, is proceeds from his real estate work. It was there because of his aversion to banks, he said. He has since changed that practice.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said, Friday night, that questions about ownership of the money would have made for a difficult prosecution of Skoog. “It was muddled to say the least,” he said.
Sheriff Buffardi sums up “The whole thing is unusual, very unusual,” adding “It was a very difficult case to work. … The funny thing is, nobody’s happy about it.”
The Gazette article makes no mention of the state or federal Internal Revenue Service.
The Editor of this website lived on said block in the Stockade, near the Mohawk River, for more than a decade, and can attest that (1) parking is terrible, and (2) the basements in the homes on Union Street, many of which are well over 150 years old, are very damp and musty.
my damp, sweaty
with greedy eyes
bare winter trees
in the cellar
ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue