Police say Albany County man prays for forgiveness after preying on churches

September 11, 2017 06:30 PM

GREENWICH -  Police say Joseph Viscusi is a low-level crook with an affinity for stealing from a higher power.

They say the 61-year-old, who lists an address in Coeymans, called and then went to St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich, offering up a phony story.

"When he gets to the church, he gives them a story that he has a child who's sick and a wife that's sick and asks the church if they can give him money to purchase a bed, diapers," said Investigator David Mosher of the New York State Police.

But Viscusi doesn't have any children and this time, the pastor at St. Joseph's recognized Viscusi from a few years ago when he offered up the same phony story.

Police say Viscusi and his girlfriend, Laura Ryan, have been scamming churches for years. An internet search shows the couple has been arrested or suspected in several states.

"When he was arrested, he stated that in the past six months, he's gone to about 30 to 40 churches," Mosher said.

Which is why police are hoping to get the word out to all area churches.

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Ron Derway, a 35-year parishioner of St Joseph's, says scammers like Viscusi make it hard to trust people who are truly in need.

"It's hard because we're called to find Christ in everybody and to have somebody walk in and take advantage of you when there are other people who need that money, that assistance, it makes us leery when someone comes knocking at our door."

Police say guilt got the best of Viscusi. They say he confessed, not to a priest, but to Investigator Mosher, and only about the Greenwich case.

A judge released Viscusi on his own recognizance, even though police describe him as a transient and the District Attorney asked that bail be set.

Mosher said Viscusi also had recent contact with churches in Saratoga and Warren Counties.


Mark Mulholland

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