4 N.J. homeowners charged with making false Sandy aid claims

Theft charges have been filed against four homeowners who tried to defraud New Jersey to get Sandy recovery funds.

The defendants falsely claimed storm-damaged homes at the Jersey Shore were their permanent residences, according to state acting Attorney General John Hoffman.

The four received benefits ranging from nearly $13,000 to more than $22,000. All are charged with theft in the first prosecutions of their kind in the state since the October 2012 storm.

“A couple of them claimed that they were primary residences when they were vacation homes, and a couple of them claimed they were primary residences when they were uninhabited,” Hoffman said Thursday. “One fellow was even living in Colorado, and he claimed that he was a primary resident of a house in Little Egg Harbor, and he applied for over $20,000 worth of grants.”

Calling that behavior “disgusting,” Hoffman said the state will seek to recover the money so the limited funds in the relief programs can go to those who deserve it.

“Doing this type of due diligence on the front end and on the back end takes time. It takes resources. It’s a shame we can’t be putting all that time and resources in getting people their funds as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’ve got to spend time finding and ferreting out the people that are trying to abuse this system of take advantage of vulnerable victims.”

Authorities are looking at other claims and will take action if more fraud is uncovered, he said.

Under federal rules, only primary residences are eligible for government aid. Some rental properties are eligible for aid, but not through the programs allegedly abused in these cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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