Prosecutors recommend jail term for man who admitted to Sandy relief fund theft

     Gregory Wagner, 63, of Toms River, pleaded guilty to stealing Sandy relief funds. (Image: N.J. Office of The Attorney General)

    Gregory Wagner, 63, of Toms River, pleaded guilty to stealing Sandy relief funds. (Image: N.J. Office of The Attorney General)

    An Ocean County man is facing a possible jail term after admitting to stealing Sandy relief funds, authorities announced.

    Gregory Wagner, 63, of Toms River, pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree theft by deception, N.J. Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

    Wagner admitted to filing fraudulent applications for federal and state relief funds related to Sandy, stating that a storm-damaged property he owns on Avalon Avenue in Bayville was his primary residence.

    But prosecutors say Wagner’s primary residence was in Toms River at the time and that he was not entitled to recovery funds. 

    “Wagner lied repeatedly on applications for Sandy relief,” said Hoffman. “He knew this critical aid was not meant for owners of income properties, yet he selfishly stole over $200,000 that should have gone to people left homeless by this catastrophic storm.”

    The state will recommend that Wagner serve 364 days in the Ocean County Jail followed by probation and pay $218,209 in restitution for the benefit funds he received when he is sentenced on Feb. 26. 

    “This guilty plea with its recommended jail term should deter others who might consider stealing relief funds,” said N.J. Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig. “We’ve been aggressively pursuing these cases with our state and federal partners because we need to send a message of zero tolerance that will deter this fraud in future disasters, so administrators can focus on the crucial work of recovery.”

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