TRENTON – Yet another couple has been caught filing fraudulent applications for Superstorm Sandy relief funds. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that Carmine and Lauri Fusco, both 50, of East Hanover, pleaded guilty to stealing $152,820 in federal relief funds.
The Fuscos each plead guilty to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter in Ocean County on Feb. 20.
The state is recommending that Carmine Fusco receive 180 days in county jail and probation, while Lauri Fusco receives probation. The couple must pay full restitution and will be sentenced on April 17.
The Fuscos pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent Sandy applications for FEMA assistance and a state grant under the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, from which they received $152,820 total; $2,280 from FEMA and $150,000 in RREM grant funds.
The couple claimed their vacation home on West End Drive in Point Pleasant was their primary residence at the time that Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, when in fact, their primary residence at the time was in East Hanover.
“We have charged over 125 defendants and recovered more than $4 million through our collaborative efforts to investigate and prosecute thefts of federal relief funds after Superstorm Sandy,” said Attorney General Grewal. “These prosecutions send a clear message that we will not tolerate those who selfishly divert relief funds intended for those whose primary homes were destroyed or damaged.”
“The success of our cooperative state and federal anti-fraud program in the wake of Superstorm Sandy should deter this conduct in future disasters, so funding is preserved for those who need it most and relief administrators can focus on recovery, not policing fraud,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These efforts exemplify effective law enforcement collaboration.”
This case was investigated jointly by members of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the HUD-Office of Inspector General. It was investigated and prosecuted for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Conlow and former Special Civil Investigator Ronald Rauer, under the supervision of Sgt. Fred Weidman, former Lt. David Nolan, Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa, and Bureau Chief Julia S. Glass.