A Toms River motel owner is heading to state prison for a scheme that defrauded the government of Superstorm Sandy relief funds, state authorities announced.
Sandipkumar Patel, 44, of Edison, N.J., was sentenced to three years in state prison by Ocean County Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said in a release.
He had pleaded guilty on Sept. 26 to a second-degree charge of theft by deception for fraudulently obtaining $81,567 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds intended to provide temporary shelter to victims of Superstorm Sandy, Porrino said.
Patel, who owns the American Motel on Route 166 along with his wife, obtained the funds from the FEMA Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program, which pays motels and hotels for rooms temporary occupied by displaced storm residents.
A state and federal investigation revealed that while Patel billed rooms in the names of 11 individuals under the program, eight never stayed at the hotel, the release said.
The remaining three stayed for shorter periods than were billed, or, in one case, shared a room that had already been billed to the program in the name of the other occupant, according to the release.
In addition, according to the state, Patel billed FEMA more than $50,000 in the names of several of his personal relatives who live in New Jersey but were not displaced by the storm.
“This assistance program enabled motel owners to shelter Sandy victims while still collecting a reasonable room rate, but Patel was more interested in stealing relief funds than helping victims,” Porrino said. “We’ll continue our aggressive efforts to prosecute greedy individuals like Patel who committed fraud and diverted relief funds from deserving recipients.”
Since March 2014, the Attorney General’s Office has filed criminal charges against 71 people for allegedly filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy.
The public can confidentially report fraud by calling 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.