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Morris County woman, 3 others charged with filing false applications for Superstorm Sandy relief funds

TRENTON, NJ – A Morris County woman and three others were recently charged with filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy, bringing the total number of defendants charged by the office in these cases to 130 since March 2014, according to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.

“Any fraud against public assistance programs is deplorable, but these thefts were especially egregious because they diverted funds intended for victims left homeless by one of the most devastating storms in New Jersey history,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We have recovered over $4 million through these prosecutions and we also have sent a strong message that should deter this type of fraud during future disaster relief efforts.”

The 130 people charged by the Attorney General’s Office were allegedly responsible for diverting nearly $9 million in relief funds. The 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, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 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.

The following four defendants were charged on various dates, as indicated, by complaint-summons:

  • Connian Scollon, 56, of Little Egg Harbor Township, was charged on April 22, 2019. Scollon allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. As a result, she allegedly received a total of $167,831 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. It is alleged that Scollon falsely claimed in her applications that a home she owns on East Shrewsbury Drive in Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence at the time Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, her primary residence at the time of the storm was in Hatboro, Pa., and the house in Little Egg Harbor Township was a secondary residence. As a result of the alleged false applications, Scollon received a $10,000 RSP grant and $157,831 in RREM grant funds. She is charged with second-degree theft by deception.
  • Robert Girardo, 68, of Ocean City, was charged yesterday, June 26, 2019. Girardo allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. As a result, he allegedly received a total of $130,347 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. It is alleged that Girardo falsely claimed in his applications that a residential property that he owned on East West Jersey Avenue in Pleasantville, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence when the storm hit was in Ocean City and the property in Pleasantville was a rental property. Girardo received a $10,000 RSP grant and $120,347 in RREM grant funds. He is charged with second-degree theft by deception.
  • Rosemary Flannery, 58, of New York, NY, was charged on June 17, 2019. Flannery allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. As a result, she allegedly received $124,151 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. Flannery allegedly falsely claimed in her application that a property she owns on Central Avenue in Highlands, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, at the time of the storm, her primary residence was in Manhattan and the property in Highlands was a secondary residence. As a result of the alleged false applications, Flannery received $2,270 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, and $111,881 in RREM grant funds. She is charged with second-degree theft by deception.
  • Cynthia Hildebrandt, 59, of Wharton, was charged on May 9, 2019. Hildebrandt allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance, a low-interest SBA disaster-relief loan, 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, she allegedly received $80,358 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. Hildebrandt allegedly falsely claimed in her applications that a property she owns on Jennie Drive in Manahawkin, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, at the time of the storm, her primary residence was in Wharton and the property in Manahawkin was a summer/weekend home. As a result of the alleged false applications, Hildebrandt received $2,820 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, $14,000 in SBA loan proceeds, $50,681 in RREM grant funds, and $2,857 in SHRAP funds. Hildebrandt is charged with second-degree theft by deception.
(Photo: Cynthia-Hildebrandt/Courtesy NJ Attorney General’s Office)

“Through this historic anti-fraud program, we have filed criminal charges against 130 defendants who allegedly were responsible for fraudulently diverting a total of nearly $9 million in relief funds after Superstorm Sandy,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This collaborative state and federal initiative will undoubtedly serve as a model for other jurisdictions that face these issues in future disaster relief efforts.”

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

For more Northwest Jersey’s News, tune into 92.7FM, 104.7FM, 105.7FM, 1510AM, wrnj.com or on the TuneIn app.

By: Jay Edwards Follow on Twitter | Like on Facebook

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Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion. For more Northwest Jersey’s News, tune into 92.7FM, 104.7FM, 105.7FM, 1510AM, wrnj.com or on the TuneIn app.

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