Four More Charged With Fraudulent Applications For Sandy Relief

The damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in the Brick area. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

TRENTON – Four new individuals have been charged with filing fraudulent applications for Superstorm Sandy relief funds, including one man from Toms River and another from Lavallette, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Robert Zachok of Toms River, William E. Thompson of Lavallette, Janyn Pettyjohn of Washington, D.C., and Carmen Martinez of Atlantic City have increased the total number of defendants in the anti-fraud program to a whopping 104 since March of 2014.

“It’s despicable that over 100 people saw fit to resort to fraud in the face of a historic disaster, allegedly stealing funds intended for those who were hardest hit,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.

In these fraud cases, the defendants have filed false applications for relief funds from numerous government agencies involved in providing aid to those affected by Superstorm Sandy. Some of these agencies include: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the US Small Business Administration (SBA), and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Attorney General’s Office, alongside its many state and federal partners, has been successful in tracking down these 104 individuals who deceitfully pocketed more than $6 million in relief funds.

Zochok has been charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification. He allegedly claimed that his primary place of residence when Sandy hit was a rental property that he owns on East Barnegat Way in Lavallette. His actual primary residence is in Toms River. Zachok allegedly received about $158,525 in relief funds from the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP).

Thompson has been charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification for similar actions. Thompson allegedly claimed that his vacation home on Sailfish Way in Lavallette, which was damaged during Sandy, was his primary residence at the time. However, his primary residence is in Asbury Park. He allegedly received $41,448 in relief from FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program.

Pettyjohn and Martinez have also been charged for allegedly claiming a second residence as their primary residence during the time that Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey. Pettyjohn received $243,226 in undeserved relief funds while Martinez received $34,090.

“Our collaborative efforts to target Sandy relief fraud have been highly productive, as evidenced by the 104 defendants we’ve charged,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The payoff from this anti-fraud program is not only the millions of dollars we are recovering, but also the deterrent message we send.  Thanks to these efforts, relief administrators in future disasters may be able to spend less time policing fraud and more time focusing exclusively on the vital task of aiding victims.”

The Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate cases of fraud like these, working with state and federal partners such as with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, HUD, SBA, HHS, 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).