A Hoboken man and woman were among five charged with receiving fraudulent Superstorm Sandy aid, state Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We charge that these defendants stole from disaster relief programs and by extension from the victims who were hardest hit by the storm,” Porrino said in a statement.
“We’ll continue to charge every cheat we identify who diverted funds from these recovery programs and from victims in need.”
Since March 2014, the state AG’s Office has filed criminal charges against 91 people for allegedly engaging in this type of fraud, including the five individuals charged today.
Jennifer Altman, 43, of Hoboken, filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance 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), authorities said.
As a result, she allegedly received approximately $183,220 in relief funds to which she was not entitled.
Altman allegedly falsely claimed in her applications that a home she owns on Maria Drive in Toms River, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck.
However, it is alleged that her primary residence at the time of the storm was in Hoboken. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Altman received approximately $12,132 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, RREM grant funds totaling $150,000, and approximately $11,088 in SHRAP funds.
Therefore, she is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
Additionally, Patrick Yannotta, 28, of Hoboken, filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the RSP and the RREM Program, officials said.
As a result, he allegedly received $182,400 in relief funds to which he was not entitled.
Yannotta allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he co-owns with a relative on Coolidge Avenue in Seaside Heights, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck.
However, the Seaside Heights property was actually an income-producing rental property and was not his full-time residence at that time, authorities said.
As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Yannotta received $22,400 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, and RREM grant funds totaling $150,000.
Like Altman, Yannotta is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
The three others charged on May 24th, Frank Russo, 83, of Brick, Jennifer Casey, 33, of Upper Saddle River, and Carlos Paul Terzian, 54, of Manahawkin, are accused of receiving $190,813, 174,912 and $30,021 in false Superstorm Sandy relief funds, respectively.
In most of the 91 cases, the defendants are alleged to have filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In many cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, or funds from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The HUD funds are administered in New Jersey by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the HHS funds are administered by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
The AG’s Office is continuing 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, HUD, the SBA and the HHS.
Also assisting the task force is the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, and the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
Nearly a year ago, a Hoboken police officer was accused by the AG’s office of receiving just over $187,000 in fraudulent Superstorm Sandy aid.