Authorities say a Superstorm Sandy housing recovery center worker solicited thousands of dollars in bribes and fictitious fees from storm victims, claiming he could expedite and/or increase the amount of money they received.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office says Ronald Golden was indicted Friday on charges of bribery, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception and identity theft. The indictment was made public Monday.
Authorities say Golden, a 43-year-old Norristown, Pa. resident, worked as a housing advisory at a center in Newark. To process applications for federal relief funds, the state opened centers and hired contract workers through two outside employment agencies. Golden was hired through an agency, according to prosecutors.
He allegedly solicited and received $5,770 overall in bribes and fraudulent fees from two victims and tried to solicit an additional $3,000 bribe from another victim between May 2014 and October 2014. But authorities say Golden had no authority to approve grants or increase them.
Prosecutors say in one instance Golden allegedly falsely claimed he was lawyer and received $200 “retainer fee” from a woman, offering to represent her in a lawsuit against her insurance company.
“Golden was hired to assist victims devastated by Superstorm Sandy, but we allege that he instead callously used his position to mislead victims and steal money that they needed to recover,” said Attorney General Gurbir S.Grewal. “For an aid worker to exploit vulnerable disaster victims and prey upon their desire to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible, as alleged here, is absolutely unconscionable.”
It wasn’t known Monday if Golden has retained an attorney.
To date, New Jersey has charged 220 people with Sandy-related fraud and recovered more than $2 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.