TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced that three additional individuals were charged criminally today with filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy. Since March 2014, the Attorney General’s Office has filed criminal charges against 23 people for allegedly engaging in this type of fraud, including the three individuals charged today.
The Attorney General’s Office is continuing to aggressively investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working jointly with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The individuals who have been charged are alleged, in most cases, to have filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In some cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by HUD or low-interest disaster loans from the SBA. The HUD funds are administered in New Jersey by the Department of Community Affairs.
“By allegedly defrauding federal and state relief programs, these defendants callously stole funds intended for those who were hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, namely the many residents whose primary homes were battered beyond habitability,” said Hoffman. “Meanwhile, these offenders also are taxing the resources of relief administrators who must police this fraud when they should be able to focus entirely on helping those in need.”
The Division of Criminal Justice charged the following defendants today by complaint-summons:
- Kathleen F. Ambro, 58, of Nutley, allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for a FEMA grant and for state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program and Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program. Ambro claimed that a storm-damaged home she owns on Rosewood Drive in Bayville was her primary residence. It is alleged that, in fact, Ambro’s primary residence was a home she owns with a relative in Nutley. Ambro received $2,270 in FEMA rental assistance. In addition, she received a $10,000 RSP grant. In sum, Ambro received a total of $12,270 through allegedly fraudulent applications. She is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
- Scott D. Fralley, 51, of Florham Park, allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for a FEMA grant. Fralley claimed that a storm-damaged residence he owns on Ocean Bay Boulevard in Lavallette was his primary residence. As a result of the alleged fraudulent application, Fralley received the maximum amount provided by FEMA, $31,900. It is alleged that the Lavallette house actually was used by Fralley as a summer vacation home and for occasional weekend use, while his primary residence remained in Florham Park. Fralley is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
- James M. Russo, 59, of Toms River, filed an application for FEMA rental assistance claiming that he was paying $1,415 in monthly rent for an apartment in Whiting where he lived after being displaced from his home following Superstorm Sandy. It is alleged that, in fact, the owner of the apartment allowed Russo and his wife to stay in the apartment rent-free. Russo allegedly submitted fraudulent documents, including a lease and rental receipts, indicating that he paid monthly rent of $1,415. As a result of the alleged fraud, Russo received a total of $11,320 in federal rental assistance. Russo is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
“We’ve made these fraud investigations a priority in order to ensure that all available Sandy relief is going to deserving victims,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Just last week, we conducted a major Sandy fraud training program with our law enforcement partners to further strengthen our effectiveness as we continue to pursue these prosecutions.”