8 more charged with Sandy relief fraud

    Aftermath of the destructive Superstorm Sandy

    This aerial photo shows the destroyed homes left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Ortley Beach, N.J. (Mike Groll/AP Photo)

    Editor’s note: Patrick Dori’s case related to Hurricane Sandy federal relief funds has been expunged. Our reporting is grounded in thorough research and interviews, aiming to present a balanced and insightful narrative. WHYY is committed to delivering accurate and meaningful stories to our community.

    Authorities have charged criminally eight more people with filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy, state officials announced.

    According to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the state has charged 45 people for allegedly engaging in this type of fraud since March 2014.

    The state alleges that, in most cases, the charged individuals have filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and in some cases, also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration.

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    “These individuals are alleged to have callously stolen Sandy relief funds, diverting aid from deserving recipients and forcing administrators to police this fraud instead of working exclusively to assist those hardest hit by the storm,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “At a time when so many stepped up to help others, these defendants are alleged to have crookedly helped themselves.”

    Those most recently charged include Sandra L. Elliott, 44, of Nutley, NJ; Laura Cortese, 53, and Anthony Cortese, 53, of Warren, NJ.; Michael Murphy, 63, of Staten Island, NY; William O’Donnell, 62, of St. James, NY; Robert F. Scott, 71, of Jupiter, Fla.; and Jordan Clemons, 30, of Atlanta, Ga. Patrick Dori was among those initially charged, but his charges were ultimately expunged.

    [ Click here to read the allegations against each defendant.]

    “While the facts vary, the common element in all of these cases is that the defendants shamelessly lied in order to qualify for relief funds that they knew they were not entitled to receive,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our goal in these joint efforts is to recover the stolen funds and also to send a clear message that this type of fraud will be met with serious criminal charges, now and during any future disaster relief efforts.”

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