LOCKPORT – A high-rolling roofer pleaded guilty Wednesday to defrauding a retired Lewiston businessman out of more than $600,000 over a six-year period and squandering it at Seneca Niagara Casino.
David L. Marsh, 52, of 10th Street, Niagara Falls, avoided prison in a plea deal that calls for him to make monthly payments to the now-destitute 73-year-old victim.
“He pulled on the heartstrings of a good, generous elderly victim and destroyed him emotionally and financially,” Assistant District Attorney Heather A. DeCastro said.
The deal also includes an agreement that Marsh’s fiancée, Tennille Pelfrey, 37, will be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor in Lewiston Town Court.
DeCastro said Pelfrey allegedly forged what appeared to be legal documents that were used to convince the victim that Marsh’s reasons for needing money were honest.
When Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas asked Marsh what he did with the money he stole, Marsh replied, “It was invested in a business.”
The judge pointed out that Marsh was a member of the “Chairman’s Club” at the Niagara Falls casino. DeCastro called it the “Biggest Losers Club.”
“I’m not a loser,” Marsh said.
“Oh, you only win,” Farkas said sarcastically.
“Everybody loses,” Marsh conceded.
According to the casino website, it takes $136,000 in wagers within six months to qualify for the Chairman’s Club. Seneca Gaming spokesman Tony Astran said the amount could vary depending on the games played and the player’s level of success.
Marsh, owner of D&L Roofing, Siding and Home Improvement, got to know the victim when he did work on his house in 2006, DeCastro said.
But soon, Marsh was tapping the till for more than what the retired business owner owed for home improvements. It was “one fabrication after another,” DeCastro said, citing information from a yearlong probe by Patrick G. Weidel of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.
The forged papers used to convince the victim of the need for help for the Marsh family included bail receipts, building inspection reports and a document that purported to show that Pelfrey’s children had $17 million coming from a settlement in a lead-poisoning lawsuit.
DeCastro said that was meant to “prove” that they could pay off all the money they had “borrowed” from the victim. However, publicly available court records show that Pelfrey’s lead lawsuit against a Falls landlord resulted in a settlement of $75,000, not $17 million.
After paying attorney’s fees, Pelfrey’s son ended up with $47,302 in the lead suit.
Public court files also reveal that in September 2006, the same month the thefts began, Marsh had lost a lawsuit to a Hamburg woman in a default judgment, and was ordered to pay her $192,320.
A spokeswoman for the Lipsitz Green law firm, which represented the Hamburg woman, said that it was a personal-injury action resulting from work Marsh did at the plaintiff’s home and that the damages have never been paid.
Other publicly available files show that Marsh has been hit with more than $22,000 in judgments for delinquent child support since 2001 and owes $1,558 in delinquent county property taxes on his home, dating from 2009. City and school tax figures were unavailable Wednesday.
Farkas said that in a conference with DeCastro and defense attorney Rodney A. Giove, a minimum restitution figure of $700 a month was discussed. But when Marsh talked about having a successful business, the judge reacted strongly.
“So you have a thriving business. Then you should be able to pay more than $700 a month. I’ll keep that in mind,” Farkas said.
She ordered Giove to bring a financial plan to the Aug. 1 sentencing, when Marsh is to be placed on five years’ probation for fourth-degree grand larceny.
The exact amount to be repaid is still undetermined, DeCastro said. Farkas put a limit of $800,000 on it. “You’re not going to be able to pay that in five years, but you put a small dent in it,” Farkas told Marsh. “You will owe that money until you pay it or until you die.”