Prattsville scammer adds insult to injury

Above: Video footage taken in Prattsville on August 29, the day after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene destroyed most of the town's Main Street.

In the New York Post on Sunday, September 18: A suspected scammer posing as a volunteer for Prattsville's fire department has run afoul of the Attorney General's office.

Benjamin Ellis Freedland went online posing as a volunteer for the Fire Department in Prattsville, a Catskills town ravaged by floods, and urging people to send cash to a PayPal account he set up, the AG’s Office told The Post.

Additionally, the alleged huckster set up an e-mail address for his PayPal account that suggested he was with a well-known charity to help Marines.

But neither the Prattsville FD nor Marines Helping Marines knows or does business with him, the AG’s Office said.

Freedland has been the subject of much talk on local hurricane-related Facebook pages and groups. The Prattsville Hose Company -- which Freedland claimed to be affiliated with -- has been warning people for weeks not to donate to Freedland's PayPal account.

It's unclear from the Post story whether any charges will be filed against Freedland.

Meanwhile, the real volunteer work in Prattsville goes on. In today's Catskill Daily Mail, reporter Tom Casey profiles local contractor Jeff Johnson, who has put his business on hold to help Prattsville and other Greene County mountaintop towns get back on their feet:

Johnson, however, does not want to focus on himself, but rather he asks for donations of dehumidifiers, gift cards to hardware stores for building supplies, and volunteers to help rebuild Prattsville, Ashland, Windham and any other town hit hard by the disaster.

With the onset of fall and winter looming, Johnson said the need to bring volunteers into Greene County is urgent for the safety of those who lost their homes in the area.

“There’s going to be snow up there in five weeks,” said Johnson. “So we’ve got to do something for these people.”

The Huntersfield Christian Training Center, a Bible study and retreat center on high ground in Prattsville, has been transformed into a shelter for displaced residents, a center for relief work and a hub for organizing volunteer efforts. Our correspondent Jenn Schuman visited Prattsville last week, and filed a dispatch on the ongoing relief effort in the town.