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Man Who Claimed To Be Homeless Defends Accepting Boots From Cop

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The man once identified as homeless as a New York City police officer gave him a pair of boots in Times Square last fall has been tracked down to an apartment in the Bronx.

As CBS 2's John Slattery reported Tuesday, the photo of the act of goodwill went viral and touched hearts all over the country. Arizona tourist Jennifer Foster took a snapshot of Officer Larry DePrimo, 25, giving a barefoot man a new pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks in Times Square on Nov. 14.

"I went over to him and said, where are you shoes?" DePrimo said. "(He said), 'Don't have any shoes.'"

DePrimo went to the Skechers shoe store nearby and purchased $100 all-weather boots and socks for the man.

"When I brought out the shoes, it was just a smile from ear to ear, so it was absolutely amazing," DePrimo told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond.

The photo became an instant hit after it was posted on the NYPD's Facebook page.

The purportedly homeless man's name was Jeffrey Hillman, and he is not really homeless. CBS 2 tracked him down at his apartment in the Bronx, where his building superintendent said he's been living for the last year.

He cracked the door open, but would not appear on camera.

Hillman was also recently spotted by a New York Post reporter counting a wad of cash on a subway train.

When asked if he had received the money panhandling, he replied, "What happened was I found it."

Hillman said he did not scam Officer DePrimo.

"I sure didn't force him to do it, sir," he said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he believes perhaps Hillman took advantage of the officer.

"That's life in New York in terms of people who try to scam us. We know that that happens," Kelly said. "But it was a generous act of kindness."

A Post reporter also recently spotted Hillman wearing a "homeless" sign.

When asked about that, Hillman replied: "I don't know if it said 'homeless.' I found it on the street."

Hillman clearly looks needy at times. He remembered that Slattery himself gave him money one day on Broadway in the 1970s.

"Did I commit a crime and force you to come outside and hand me $5?" Hillman asked Slattery.

"No, you didn't commit any crime," Slattery said. "But you were leading me to believe you're homeless when in fact, you weren't."

Hillman is a U.S. Army veteran who receives some support, and spends his days accepting the generosity of others.

A childhood friend of Hillman, who helps support him financially, described Hillman as mentally ill and in need of medicine which he doesn't always take.

Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond told CBS News in December that Hillman has been on the city agency's radar for a while.

"We're sure because we've had such a sustained engagement with him for so many years," Diamond said.

His is enrolled in a veteran-focused part Section 8, and benefits from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, Diamond said, adding the apartment comes with case management services, which Hillman doesn't use.

Hillman is also a recipient of disability benefits through Social Security, a Homeless Services official told CBS News.

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