5 charged with Sandy fraud

     Images courtesy of the N.J. Office of Attorney General.

    Images courtesy of the N.J. Office of Attorney General.

    New Jersey authorities criminally charged five additional individuals last week with allegedly filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy.

    According to an announcement from Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, the individuals who have been charged are alleged, in most cases, to have filed fraudulent applications for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relief funds.

    “In some cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The HUD funds are administered in New Jersey by the Department of Community Affairs,” the state release announcing the charges said.

    According to the state release, the following individuals were charged:

    Gregory Wagner, 62, of Toms River, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance, a low-interest SBA disaster-relief loan, and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. It is alleged that Wagner falsely claimed that a storm-damaged property he owns on Avalon Avenue in Bayville, N.J., was his primary residence at the time Sandy hit. It is alleged that, in reality, Wagner was living with his girlfriend in Toms River, and the Bayville address was a rental property. In total, Wagner received $31,900 from FEMA for rental assistance and personal property loss. He also received a $10,000 RSP grant and a total of $159,822 in RREM grant payments, which were paid directly to a contractor for design and construction work on the damaged property. His application for an SBA loan was rejected. He is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

    Deborah Glatz, 58, of Putnam Valley, N.Y., allegedly filed fraudulent applications for relief funds following Superstorm Sandy in which she falsely claimed that a storm-damaged property she owns on Mill Creek Road in Manahawkin, N.J., was her primary residence at the time of the storm. As a result, Glatz received state grant payments under the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program totaling $143,051 and $40,000 in loan disbursements from an SBA loan. It is alleged that, in reality, Glatz’s primary residence at the time of the storm was a home she owns with her husband in Putnam Valley, N.Y. Glatz and her husband purchased the property in Manahawkin just three days before Sandy hit. However, documents signed at closing show that Glatz intended to use the damaged property as a secondary residence. She allegedly submitted false information to DCA and SBA to induce them to disburse Superstorm Sandy assistance she would not otherwise have been entitled to receive. Glatz is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

    Laura Matarazzo, 58, of Oakland, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. It is alleged that Matarazzo falsely claimed on the applications that a storm-damaged home she owned on Melody Lane in Lavallette, N.J., was her primary residence at the time Sandy struck. In fact, her primary residence was in Oakland, N.J., and the home in Lavallette was a vacation/rental property. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, she received a total of $5,090 in FEMA relief funds, a $10,000 RSP grant and RREM grant payments totaling $93,787. She is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

    Christina Gumble, 54, of Forked River, N.J., allegedly filed a fraudulent application following Superstorm Sandy for rental assistance with FEMA. In total, FEMA awarded $23,676 to Gumble in reliance on her claim that she incurred rental expenses at a property located on Forest Avenue in Lyndhurst as a result of having been displaced by the storm from her primary home in Forked River, N.J. In reality, Gumble stayed at her mother’s Lyndhurst home. She allegedly submitted a false apartment lease and false rent-payment receipts in support of her request for rental assistance. She is charged with third-degree theft by deception and third-degree tampering with public records.

    Susan T. Saltstein, 65, of Pennington, N.J., allegedly filed a fraudulent application following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance. It is alleged that Saltstein falsely claimed that a storm-damaged home she owned on Albright Road in Long Beach Township, N.J., was her primary residence at the time Sandy struck. In fact, her primary residence was in Pennington, N.J., and the home in Long Beach Township was a summer/vacation home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent application, she received a total of $23,512 in FEMA relief funds, including $21,242 for home repairs and $2,270 in rental assistance. She is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

    Since March 2014, the state has filed criminal charges against 37 people — including the five charged last week — for allegedly engaging in Sandy-related fraud.

    “Collecting government assistance through fraud is always a deplorable crime, but it’s far more egregious in these cases, because the defendants allegedly siphoned relief funds away from deserving recipients and forced administrators to spend time policing fraud rather than focusing exclusively on aiding victims in the wake of this historic natural disaster,” Hoffman said.

    “We’ll remain unyielding in our pursuit of these offenders.”

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