Highlands, NY – A man held an 81-year-old Marine Corps veteran hostage in his squalid motel room for at least four years in order to steal his benefits checks, authorities said Thursday.
Perry Coniglio was arrested Tuesday in his room adjoining the victim’s at a motel in Highlands. The motel sits next door to the police station in the Hudson Valley town, about 50 miles north of New York City.
Coniglio, 43, used brute force and intimidation to get the mentally diminished veteran to cooperate with him, police said. The elderly man has advanced dementia, according to police.
Police Chief Jack Quinn said the veteran received a “tremendous amount of money” each month in Social Security benefits, pension checks and food stamps, though investigators wouldn’t divulge the exact total.
The veteran was taken to a hospital for evaluation. His name hasn’t been released by police. It’s believed he has no relatives or close friends, but police haven’t said how Coniglio came in contact with him.
Coniglio was being held Thursday in the Orange County Jail on $15,000 bail. The charges against him include grand larceny and unlawful imprisonment. The Legal Aid Society attorney representing him wasn’t available for comment.
Prosecutors declined to comment because of possible grand jury action.
Coniglio, of nearby Highland Falls, was arrested during a police raid captured on video by WABC-TV in New York City. The footage shows police taking Coniglio into custody at gunpoint while the bearded and bewildered veteran sat on a bed in his cluttered room at the U.S. Academy Motel. He told police he believed he’d been in the room for only the past four days, not years, WABC reported.
Authorities said they were recently tipped off to the situation by neighbors, one of whom provided video showing the older man being physically abused outside his room.
It couldn’t be learned from police why the alleged abuse continued for so long at the L-shaped motel that’s just a few steps away from a building housing a police station and an ambulance service. The motel is located just south of West Point, home to the U.S. Military Academy.
Detective Joseph Cornetta said police have heard from a number of veterans groups who have offered to help the man, while the county Adult Protective Services is working with police to find the man a new residence.