A Total of 96 People Have Been Charged Since March 2014.

TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that five 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 96 people for allegedly engaging in this type of fraud, including the five individuals just charged.

The Attorney General’s Office is continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working jointly with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also assisting the taskforce is the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, New Jersey Department of the Treasury Office of Criminal Investigation, and the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The defendants are alleged, in most cases, to have filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In many cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by HUD, low-interest disaster loans from the SBA, or funds from HHS. The HUD funds are administered in New Jersey by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the HHS funds are administered by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

“We charge that these defendants stole from disaster relief programs and by extension from the victims who were hardest hit by the storm,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We’ll continue to charge every cheat we identify who diverted funds from these recovery programs and from victims in need.”

The following defendants were charged today by complaint-summons, with the exception of Barlotta, who was charged by warrant:

  • Edward Barlotta, 65, of Cape Coral, Fla., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $171,099 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. Barlotta allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on Beach Avenue in Long Branch, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence at the time of the storm was in Florida and the home in Long Branch was a secondary/seasonal home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Barlotta received $2,270 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, RREM grant funds totaling $150,000, and approximately $8,829 in SHRAP funds. Barlotta is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
  • Thomas Dooney, 65, of Ramsey, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $137,827 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. Dooney also applied for a low-interest SBA loan and was approved for a loan of $143,000, but he never closed on the loan or received any funds. Dooney allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on Bower Drive in Brick, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence at the time of the storm was in Ramsey and the home in Brick was a seasonal/weekend home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Dooney received approximately $9,825 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, approximately 103,002 in RREM grant funds, and approximately $15,000 in SHRAP funds. Dooney is charged with second-degree theft by deception, second-degree attempted theft by deception, and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
  • Walter G. Ribeiro, Jr., 63, of , of Deptford, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and a state grant under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $41,302 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. Ribeiro allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on Calvert Street in Ventnor, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence at the time of the storm was in Deptford and the home in Ventnor was a vacation home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Ribeiro received approximately $31,302 from FEMA and a $10,000 RSP grant. Ribeiro is charged with third-degree theft by deception.
  • Joan Galetta, 74, of Sayreville, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and a state grant under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP). As a result, she allegedly received approximately $19,969 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. Galetta allegedly falsely claimed in her applications that a home she owns on 24th Avenue in Seaside Park, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, her primary residence at the time of the storm was in Sayreville and the Seaside Park home was a secondary weekend/vacation home. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Galetta received approximately $9,969 from FEMA and a $10,000 RSP grant. Galetta is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
  • Linda Petersack-Kunz, 56, of Ewing, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grant funds under the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, she allegedly received approximately $17,743 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. She also received a $10,000 RSP grant and an SBA loan of $116,300, but she repaid those two sums. Petersack-Kunz allegedly falsely claimed in her applications that a home she now owns with her husband on Judy Drive in Manahawkin, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, the storm-damaged property was owned solely by her husband when the storm hit and her primary home was in Ewing. Her husband’s primary home allegedly was in Florida at the time. As a result of the alleged false applications, Petersack-Kunz received $2,820 in FEMA rental assistance and approximately $14,923 in SHRAP funds. She is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

“Stealing any type of public aid is reprehensible, but it’s especially egregious to steal relief funds in the context of a historic disaster, when every dollar is needed for recovery,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll continue to pursue these prosecutions with our state and federal partners, so we can guard these funds and deter this type of criminal conduct in future emergencies.”

“It is unconscionable that people would steal Sandy recovery money from fellow New Jerseyans who legitimately qualify for assistance,” said DCA Commissioner Charles A. Richman. “The passage of time has done nothing to quiet our vigilance against recovery cheats. We remain steadfast in working with our law enforcement partners to catch anyone who misuses our Sandy recovery programs.”

The new cases were investigated by detectives of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, HUD Office of Inspector General, SBA Office of Inspector General, and HHS Office of Inspector General. The National Insurance Crime Bureau also assisted. Deputy Attorneys General Valerie Noto, William Conlow, Denise Grugan and Jacalyn Estrada are prosecuting the new defendants under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, Chief of the Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa, Deputy Bureau Chief. Lt. David Nolan, Sgt. Fred Weidman and former Analyst Alison Callery conducted and coordinated the investigations for the Division of Criminal Justice, with others, including Special Civil Investigators Rita Binn, Scott Naismyth and Amy Campbell, and Office of the State Comptroller Special Investigator John Silver.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to$150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, resulting in an unprecedented level of damage. Almost immediately, the affected areas were declared federal disaster areas, making residents eligible for FEMA relief. FEMA grants are provided to repair damaged homes and replace personal property. In addition, rental assistance grants are available for impacted homeowners. FEMA allocates up to $31,900 per applicant for federal disasters. To qualify for FEMA relief, applicants must affirm that the damaged property was their primary residence at the time of the storm.

In addition to the FEMA relief funds, HUD allocated $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for storm victims on the East Coast. New Jersey received $2.3 billion in CDBG funds for housing-related programs, including $215 million that was allocated for the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and $1.1 billion that was allocated for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. Under RSP, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is disbursing grants of $10,000 to encourage homeowners affected by Sandy to remain in the nine counties most seriously impacted by the storm: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties. The RREM Program, which is the state’s largest housing recovery program, provides grants to Sandy-impacted homeowners to cover rebuilding costs up to $150,000 that are not funded by insurance, FEMA, SBA loans, or other sources.

The Small Business Administration provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and most private nonprofit organizations. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars or appliances damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for a loan of up to $200,000 to replace or repair their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition. Secondary homes or vacation properties are not eligible for these loans, but qualified rental properties may be eligible for assistance under the business loan program.

The Disaster Relief Act provided HHS approximately $760 million in funding for Sandy victims. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) received approximately $577 million in Sandy funding through three grant programs, including the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program, which received nearly $475 million to help five states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland). New Jersey received over $226 million for a wide range of social services directly related to the disaster. New Jersey used SSBG funds to develop the Sandy Homeowner/Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP) to assist individuals/families with expenses for housing and other related needs.