OCEAN COUNTY – A Seaside Heights man will spend a decade in prison after he admitted to stealing from a Superstorm Sandy fraud grant.
45-year-old Robert Brower was sentenced Friday to stealing from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant in the amount of $225,000, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said Brower had pleaded guilty in January to second-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity.
He admitted that he stole over $225,000 from a grant he received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and transferred the funds to a bank account he created using his deceased father’s social security number and date of birth in order to conceal the proceeds of the theft. An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Unit and Agents from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed that in August 2015, Brower received a grant under the department’s Land Lord Repair Program, in order to repair 33 Sampson Avenue in Seaside Heights. On February 19, 2016, Brower received a payment of $229,395.22 from the program as part of a construction advance.
In court, Brower admitted that he converted those funds for his own use rather than use them on the project. Additionally, Brower conceded during his plea hearing in January that he tried to disguise his theft by using his father’s pedigree information rather than his own. Brower was sentenced to ten years in New Jersey State Prison with a five year period of parole ineligibility.
Brower was also sentenced to seven years in New Jersey State Prison for second-degree theft. Brower admitted to taking over $750,000 from a Toms River homeowner for repairs on a Sandy ravaged home. During the course of the project, Brower repeatedly asked for additional monies in excess of the contract in order to move the project along. However, upon receiving the monies to be utilized on the project, Brower left the Sandy ravaged home unfinished and converted approximately $786,500 to his own use. During his plea Brower claimed that he spent the money on illegal narcotics.
Brower was also sentenced to five years in New Jersey State Prison after he admitted to selling eighteen folds of heroin to an individual in a Toms River parking lot in February 2018.
Judge Cunningham ordered that Brower’s sentences will be served concurrently and ordered him to pay restitution to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs for Housing and Urban Development in the amount of $229,395.22 and $786,500.00 to the Toms River homeowner.
In addition, to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Prosecutor Billhimer would like to thank the Division of Criminal Justice Financial and Computer Crimes Bureau, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, the United States Marshall’s Service, the Toms River Police Department and the Seaside Heights Police Department for their assistance in these matters.
The State was represented by Senior Assistant Prosecutor Jill O’Malley and Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Heisler.