A man who bilked nearly $100,000 in public relocation assistance from victims of high water in Fountain is headed to prison.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Thomas Kelly Kane sentenced Michael Paul Lemay to eight years in prison in thefts that targeted four families living at the former Riverside Mobile Home Park, which became unstable after heavy rain in 2013. Some had to temporarily split up to find housing after losing their money, while others dealt with credit implications and struggled to put down deposits on new homes and apartments.
“These are real victims, with real pain,” Kane said.
Lemay, 42, pleaded guilty in March to felony theft under a deal that made him eligible for up to 10 years in prison.
At the time of the offense, Lemay was serving probation for a 2005 case in which he admitted stealing $60,000 from a man who paid him to identify real estate investments. The victim told the court he wasn’t thinking clearly after he and his wife lost their twin daughters at birth.
“You shouldn’t make financial decisions when you’re vulnerable, but we did,” said Colm McCormack, who lost his wife to cancer in 2010. “He tricked us.”
His latest scam involved residents of the Riverside Mobile Home Park, which was shuttered last year amid fears over unstable slopes. The county bought the property and moved people out of 26 units, paying them $22,000 in relocation assistance.
When a woman took to Facebook to speak about her predicament, Lemay reached out offering help, calling himself a private lender who could help her stretch her money .
“He is one of the sweetest-talking people you will ever meet,” Angelica Rutherford previously told The Gazette, describing how she and her husband came to trust a man who seemed to have an answer for every question.
But instead of finding them a new home, as promised, Lemay pocketed the money and ultimately gambled it away in Cripple Creek.
It’s the same way he spent money from his 2005 conviction, he said.
Lemay apologized in court and said he regretted his crimes, but claimed that his “triggers” kept him gambling. The judge later told him his remorse doesn’t help families who lost money.
“And there’s no assurance it won’t happen again,” Kane added, suggesting that Lemay seek counseling in prison for his gambling addiction.
Prosecutor Brandon Willms called it a fair sentence.
“Justice has been served: protecting the community, at least for that period,” he said.