TRENTON – A former Hoboken police officer, now living in Seaside Heights, was sentenced for stealing $187,000 by filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds after Superstorm Sandy, according to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
Nikola Lulaj, 45, of Seaside Heights, formerly of Dumont, New Jersey, was sentenced to five years in state prison. He was an officer in Hoboken, but had to forfeit his job upon conviction.
His wife, Majlinda Lulaj, 32, was sentenced to three years of probation, conditioned upon completion of 50 hours of community service. They have to pay the money back.
Specifically, they applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, a low-interest SBA disaster-relief loan, and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP) funded by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
They had claimed that the house damaged in Seaside was their primary residence, when it was a vacation/rental property, the state reported. Disaster aid was only for primary residences. The couple have since moved to that Seaside home.
“For a police officer to commit this type of fraud is particularly egregious, because officers take an oath to uphold the law and we rightly hold them to the highest standards,” said Attorney General Grewal. “When disaster strikes, we cannot allow dishonest applicants to divert disaster relief funds from the intended recipients – namely, those victims whose primary homes were destroyed or damaged.”
The Attorney General’s Office has charged over 120 defendants with fraud related to Sandy relief programs. Most of the cases involve “primary residence fraud” of the type committed by Nikola and Majlinda Lulaj. The 120-plus defendants allegedly were responsible for diverting more than $8 million in relief funds.
The office is continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working jointly with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also assisting the taskforce is the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, New Jersey Department of the Treasury Office of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).