For 11 years, Richard Kesick told lie after lie and even impersonated a judge over the telephone to steal more than $500,000 from a 91-year-old Catholic priest.
The 57-year-old Laird Avenue man told the priest he needed money to pay ransom to his kidnappers and cover medical bills for a stab wound. He pretended to be an insurance company representative to give the priest false assurance that the money would be repaid.
Kesick actually needed the money to cover his gambling expenses, prosecutors said Tuesday.
He pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny before Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk. He faces seven years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 12.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III called Kesick “an especially loathsome and despicable swindler.”
The amount that Kesick stole shocked even seasoned prosecutors who deal with financial crimes.
Prosecutor Candace K. Vogel said she spoke to the victim Tuesday. “He told me having this man incarcerated is the first time he’s been at ease in years,” she said.
Kesick began taking advantage of the priest more than a decade ago after he asked the priest for a job.
“I guess the defendant is a dilly of a liar,” Vogel said. “He managed to pick the right heart strings.”
Vogel described the cleric as a kind man who “wanted to believe he could help this man.”
At one point, the priest came up with $20,000 to $30,000 for ransom. “He kept milking him,” Vogel said.
In court Tuesday, Kesick admitted that he lied to steal the money from June 2001 through July 2012.
“That it went unreported is what is so common about elder abuse,” Vogel said.
A concerned person went to Town of Tonawanda police with suspicions about the cleric’s plight.
Police Lt. William Krier and Vogel, who prosecutes financial abuse of elders, put together the case against Kesick, Sedita said.
Prosecutors could have pressed a higher felony charge against Kesick, but the cleric was reluctant to testify.
The victim is embarrassed and humiliated by what happened, Sedita said. “We see it all the time with financial elder abuse,” he said.
It’s not age that necessarily made the victim vulnerable. “Sure he was vulnerable, but not just from age,” Vogel said. “He had a personality of wanting to believe people and wanting to help them.”
The victim believed that at some point he would get the money back.
“This isn’t a naive person,” Vogel said of the victim. “This is a very bright but caring person who wanted to help someone.”
She called it a case of “a generous man who got ripped off.”
Sedita said the priest invested well decades ago and accumulated a large amount of money.
Kesick has been in jail since his arrest by town police on July 16. He is married and has not had a job in five years.
“Why would he have to?” Vogel asked. “This is a lot of money.”
Kesick signed a confession of judgment for $500,000, but the victim has scant hope of getting repaid. The defendant “doesn’t have two nickels to rub together,” Vogel said.
Kesick’s criminal past includes convictions for burglary, forgery, arson and criminal possession of stolen property.