HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – A cunning con duped a Long Island neighborhood by posing as a friendly cop — while shaking down hookers, drug dealers and speeders for payoffs, authorities said Wednesday.
"He had the kids idolizing him like he was a super police officer," said Henry Terry's neighbor Diana Hoffman. "He would come out in his uniform every day, like he was going to work. He would flash his lights for the kids. He would let them play with the siren."
But instead of being a super trooper, Terry was a brazen con man wearing a fake uniform, authorities said.
He dressed up as a cop each day to perpetrate a life-encompassing scam in which he posed as an officer to shake down crooks and reap rewards from neighbors, whom he convinced to hand over expensive goods, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said.
The scam worked, even though the 24-year-old could hardly keep his story straight, sometimes saying he was a police sergeant, sometimes a parole officer and occasionally some other law-enforcement figure, Spota said.
Terry even allegedly came up with a bogus business card, giving himself the rank of "district commander" of a non-existent police unit.
"He had me fooled the whole time — the whole time," said David Tejeda, 21, who shared an apartment with Terry in Holbrook.
"He told me he was a State Police officer."
In reality, Terry was unemployed and a convicted criminal on probation for an arson arrest.
But with his handcuffs, uniform, cop car, fake gun and badge, Terry's act was very convincing, authorities said.
"He always had stories. It was like watching an episode of 'Cops,' " said neighbor Wendy Recchia, who said she heard Terry regale residents with tales of his police heroism.
Equipped with this phony law-enforcement identity, Terry started making himself rich, sources said.
In one alleged scam, he got himself a 2005 Hummer from a local man who believed he was a cop. Terry told the victim he needed it for police business, and convinced the man he would be reimbursed, a law enforcement source said.
In another scam, he allegedly told a victim that he needed a 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser for an FBI investigation. He eventually got the person to hand it over to him, but then sold it off and pocketed the money, Spota said.
Terry allegedly also cruised around town pulling people over for traffic violations.
"He was doing police duties," said Tejeda, who witnessed Terry in action. "He would pull people over, but never wrote tickets."
In one encounter, Terry went to an area known for prostitution and staged a phony arrest of a man and a woman he caught together, Spota said. He let the pair go after allegedly shaking them down for $100.
He was outfitted as well as a real officer. His vehicle was the consummate cop car — a late-model Ford Crown Victoria complete with lights and sirens and a public-address system, neighbors said.
He also had 10 cell phones and a bulletproof vest, Spota said. The finishing touch as a clipboard with realistic forms on which he recorded, in detail, every time he allegedly pulled someone over. Real cops found dozens of reports in Terry's documents.
Spota said it was "disturbing" that Terry was able to buy his fake police equipment — including realistic pistols — via the Internet.
The DA was particularly incensed about the fact that Terry's wore 9/11 commemorative patches on his bogus uniform.
The scam went on for four months, and came to the attention of authorities after the person who gave the Land Cruiser to Terry got suspicious and reported him. Terry was busted late last month.
At his arraignment yesterday before Suffolk County Judge Randall Hinrichs in Riverhead, Terry pleaded not guilty to third-degree grand larceny and impersonating a police officer, and was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash bail.