The Story Behind Jeffery Yeh, Columbia County’s ‘Activist’

Jeffery Yeh

By Roger Hannigan Gilson with additional reporting by Sam Pratt

Last week, The Other Hudson Valley published, then retracted, a report about a State Police search of the Stockport home of Jeffery Yeh. A May 14th warrant enabled police to remove multiple computers, phones and other electronic devices from the home.

In an interview last week with The Other Hudson Valley, Yeh spun the search as retaliation for his role as an anti-corruption crusader — an attempt, he suggested, to shut down his quest for truth.

However, extensive evidence has since emerged which suggests a far more complicated picture, undercutting Yeh’s claims of victimhood.

If charges result from the search, they will be nothing new for Yeh, whose criminal career stretches back at least 26 years. Yeh has been charged with at least 26 crimes by police agencies, including at least 18 felonies. He has been sentenced to incarceration at least five times.

The charges documented tend to revolve around theft, identity theft, electronic surveillance and possessing forged financial documents. Many of his victims were known to him, such as individuals who employed him, or people he knew socially.

Much of this criminal record was amassed far from the authority of the County officials whom Yeh alleges are trying to get him.

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Fashioning himself as a proud voice for the voiceless, Yeh posts multiple times a day on his personal Facebook page and also his Facebook group, Columbia County Citizens Action Network. His rapid-fire updates, which he claims have been “exposing the corruption level” in the County, accuse a myriad of police, judges, politicians and other local officials of corruption.

Among his favorite targets have been the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Social Services, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and the New York State Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI). His videos have acquired tens of thousands of views since the page was created February 2.

The public persona of Jeffrey A. Yeh is itself a relatively new one. At the time of most of his arrests, Yeh was known as Jeffery A. Orendack, his birth name. He changed his surname to Yeh after his marriage to a man from whom he is now separated.

The Other Hudson Valley has now examined publicly-available court documents from Albany County, Columbia County, and Rockingham County, New Hampshire; prison records from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the New Hampshire Department of Corrections; articles from The Columbia Paper and archived articles and police blotters from the Albany Times-Union and the Register-Star; and is in the process of obtaining seven state police incident reports through the Freedom of Information Law which list Yeh as a suspect, though he did not necessarily face charges in each case.

The Other Hudson Valley has also interviewed several private citizens who had personal relationships with Yeh over the years. However, they all refused to place anything on the record, saying they feared retaliation from Yeh.

When given a brief overview of his criminal history, then asked if it was possible the state police warrant was served for reasons other than retribution, Yeh answered, “no.”

He declined further comment.

The following is a summation of Yeh’s criminal history and does not claim to include all charges the Stockport man has faced.

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Yeh’s first known charge was 1992, when Yeh was 25.

He was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor, from an alleged incident in Stockport, according to a 1996 criminal history prepared by Yeh’s attorney at the time, who was defending him in another case.

Yeh faced the criminal justice system again just two months later, when he was indicted for criminal possession of a forged instrument and petit larceny for a crime in Greenport, according to his arrest warrant, signed by Columbia Country Judge Warren Zittell, who passed away in 1996, according to the Columbia Paper.

Yeh was in possession of a forged check, which he cashed at Key Bank in Greenport, according to the felony complaint. The check was drawn on the account of MGC Connecticut Limited, according to the indictment.

Yeh pleaded guilty to two charges and was sentenced to six months in Columbia County Jail and five years’ probation, according to his sentencing document.

Yeh’s next case came in 1993, when he was found guilty in Albany County Court of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, according to Yeh’s certificate of conviction. He was sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation, to be served concurrently with time to which he had already been sentenced.

In 1994, Yeh was charged with five counts of third-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing $33,851 in cash, checks and food stamps from Sysco Food Store in Colonie, according to the indictment. He worked at the store as a manager, according archived blotter from the Albany Times-Union.

Yeh eventually pleaded to one count of third-degree grand larceny, according to the blotter

He was sentenced to 2 ½-5 years in state prison for the crime, entering the state prison system in October 1995, according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

He was paroled less than a year later, but was instantly back in court on six felony charges for crimes allegedly committed before he was in prison: the theft of credit cards and an insurance check from a Colonie man’s bedroom and mailbox, plus the forging of the man’s signature on the items, according to the indictment.

Yeh pleaded guilty to a single count of grand larceny, according to his certificate of conviction.

He was returned to prison and was released in September 1999, staying under state supervision until September 2000, according to DOCCS.

Yeh was next charged in New Hampshire with six felony counts of interception of oral communications for allegedly hiding a video and audio recorder in his bosses’ ceiling, according to archived police blotter from the Register-Star, charges carrying a maximum of seven years in state prison each.

He pleaded guilty in 2006 and was sentenced to prison, as well being ordered to have no contact with his former boss and four others, according to his Rockingham Superior Court case transcript.

Last year, he was arrested by state police and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing credit card information from an acquaintance, according to a state police press release.

The case was dismissed due to a technicality, after an appellate court decision changed the requirements for filing charges, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka explained in an earlier interview. The court decision caused hundreds of cases to be thrown out, Czajka said, but were dismissed “without prejudice”— meaning Yeh’s case could be reopened.

It was in the months after this new arrest that Yeh founded the Columbia County Citizens Action Network, appearing on Facebook in February. Though the page has over 1,000 followers, it is not clear that the unincorporated organization consists of anyone besides Yeh.

The page features short videos of Yeh talking about county officials, as well as conversations with officials Yeh secretly recorded and posted without the officials’ consent. It also includes screenshots of parts of text message conversations with the sender’s name scratched out.

Yeh claims in his videos that a Federal case is underway against those he is attacking on social media, and that he is working with these authorities, who he says feed him documents. Yeh has posted emails he has sent to “Fed agent Obrien,” about alleged corruption in the county, though the email address’ domain is for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A recent post features a mostly illegible copy of what Yeh calls “The Moon Report,” an analysis of Columbia County’s social services program. The report was prepared after the Columbia County Board of Supervisors requested the analysis, according to the report.

Though Yeh claims in his post that “the County has gone through great lengths to keep this report private,” a Google search reveals much of the 2010 report has been available online since at least December 2014.

The Other Hudson Valley is unable to prove or disprove Yeh’s assertions about a Federal investigation, as such cases are almost always kept secret until indictments are handed down, and generally are not announced by ex-convicts in Facebook groups.

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The recent warrant to search Yeh’s house (which was provided to The Other Hudson Valley by Yeh himself and later verified as authentic by the State Police Public Information Office) was to search “for items tending to show their use in and/or furtherance of the crimes” of second-degree identity theft, fourth-degree grand larceny, and fourth-degree possession of stolen property, all Class E felonies.

Class E felonies bring a maximum sentence of four years in state prison, according to state sentencing guidelines, though these guidelines only apply to defendants with no prior convictions.

Yeh’s activity has included audio and video surveillance, forgery, and identity theft. As such, the State Police action appears on its face to have had more justification than originally met our eye.

Correction: Yeh’s response has been edited to make it clear he still believes the warrant was served for retribution.

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