Based on several calls received two weeks ago, the Hamptons Police Department on Wednesday blew open a wide-ranging scheme to deceive and defraud homeowners who use leaf-blowing services. Officers arrested seven people connected with the ring, and said more arrests are imminent.
At a news conference announcing the busts, Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch explained how the fraud was being carried out across the East End.
“The callers who tipped us off, who will remain anonymous, had noticed that leaf blowers were still being used in January,” Hirsch told reporters. “Naturally, they wondered why someone would need to blow leaves around in January—the trees are bare, there aren’t many leaves left on the grass. So it was a mystery.”
According to Hirsch, officers followed up on the callers’ concerns and quickly uncovered a highly organized criminal enterprise. “Several undercover units staked out properties where the leaf blowers had been heard. Over the course of several nights, the units were somewhat astonished to witness crews of workers making middle-of-the-night deliveries of leaves to these properties.”
When reporters expressed skepticism about these police findings, Hirsch revealed the undercover units had been able to obtain footage of the leaf deliveries, using infrared lenses to capture movements in the dark, and that the department would make these images public shortly.
“You may find it difficult to believe, but I’ve seen the video. These crews would quietly disperse a truckload of leaves across a property, using only rakes and tarps, and then they would take off,” Hirsch explained. “That would take about 15 minutes. The next morning, another crew would show up and blow all of the leaves OFF of the property and carefully load the leaves back into another truck.”
Hirsch said investigators believe there were only four trucks full of leaves, and these same leaves were being recycled for reuse on properties throughout the area so crews could charge to blow them off over and over again.
“We have impounded three of the trucks with the leaves inside, but we believe one truckload of leaves remains out there somewhere,” Hirsch continued. “We’re asking the public to check their yards—if there are a lot of leaves on them, we want to know about it.”