TRENTON – The number is up to 120 as the Attorney General charges four more individuals with Superstorm Sandy fraud.
These four filed fraudulent applications for federal relief funds after Superstorm Sandy. All 120 individuals charged since March 2014 are responsible for diverting over $8 million in Sandy relief funds, according the Attorney General’s office.
“Any fraud against public assistance programs is deplorable, but these thefts were especially egregious because they diverted funds intended for victims left homeless by one of the most devastating storms in New Jersey history,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We have recovered over $2.2 million through these prosecutions and we also have sent a strong message that should deter this type of fraud during future disaster relief efforts.”
In many of these cases, the individuals charged have filed fraudulent applications for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relief funds, the Sandy relief program funded by HUD, low-interest disaster loans from the SBA, or funds from HHS.
The following were charged on August 22 by complaint-summons:
- Rhea Jolly, 61, of Toms River allegedly filed fraudulent applications for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. Jolly received approximately $156,636 in relief funds after claiming that her property on Beachwood Avenue in Toms River was her primary residence, and was destroyed by Sandy. Jolly’s primary residence was in Ocean Gate and she has been charged with second-degree theft by deception.
- Ralph Lubosco, 66, and Eileen Lubosco, 67, of Cream Ridge filed fraudulent applications for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. The couple received approximately $134,981 in relief after claiming their home on Willard Drive in Manahawkin was their primary residence and was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The couple, in fact, resided in Cream Ridge, and the house in Manahawkin was a long-term rental property. Each of them has been charged with second-degree theft by deception.
- Peter Raia Jr., 51, of Lodi filed fraudulent applications for FEMA assistance, a low-interest SBA disaster-relief loan, and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). Raia received $37,822 in relief after claiming that his home on Lincoln Avenue in Seaside Heights was his primary residence and was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. At the time, Raia’s primary residence was in Lodi, and the home in Seaside Heights was a weekend property. Raia has been charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
“Through this historic anti-fraud program, we have held over 100 defendants accountable for allegedly lying about vacation homes and other secondary properties in order to steal relief funds intended for victims whose primary homes were damaged,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We also have charged a number of renters who falsely claimed they were displaced by the storm or lost personal property. This collaborative state and federal initiative will undoubtedly serve as a model for other jurisdictions that face these issues in future disaster relief efforts.”
The office is continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working 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).