TRENTON, N.J. - A Mahopac man was charged in New Jersey on Thursday, March 23, with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification after investigators from the state attorney general’s office say he filed fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy.
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino alleged that Dominic M. Moccia, 66, 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 $33,839 in relief funds to which he was not entitled.
In a prepared statement, Porrino alleged that Moccia falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on Webster Avenue in Seaside Heights, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. However, investigators say his primary residence at the time of the storm was actually in Mahopac and the house in Seaside Heights was a secondary/vacation home.
As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Moccia received $23,839 from FEMA for home repairs and rental assistance, and a $10,000 RSP grant.
New Jersey does not designate crimes by the felony/misdemeanor classification; however, New Jersey attorney Christopher Basner said that for other purposes, a third-degree conviction in New Jersey could be considered a felony because it is punishable by incarceration of over one year.
Moccia was one of five individuals arrested Thursday on fraud-related charges in conjunction with Superstorm Sandy. Since March 2014, the New Jersey attorney general’s office has filed criminal charges against 86 people for engaging in this type of fraud.
“We charge that these defendants stole from disaster relief programs and by extension from the victims who were hardest hit by the storm,” Porrino said. “We’ll continue to charge every cheat we identify who diverted funds from these recovery programs and from victims in need.”
Elie Honig, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, said that while stealing any type of public aid is reprehensible, it’s especially egregious to steal relief funds in the context of a historic disaster when every dollar is needed for recovery.
“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,” Honig said.
Mocci’s case was 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.
A third-degree charge carries a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while a fourth-degree charge carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000.
On Oct. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast, resulting in an unprecedented level of damage. Almost immediately, the affected areas were declared federal disaster areas, making residents eligible for FEMA relief.