Somerset County News

Warren Couple Charged With Stealing Superstorm Sandy Relief Funds

ccf3b73b9e863bdd5cef_image.jpeg
Warren Couple Charged with Superstorm Sandy Fraud Credits: Office of the Attorney General
ccf3b73b9e863bdd5cef_image.jpeg

TRENTON, NJ - A Warren couple filed fake applications for Superstorm Sandy relief money, falsely claiming their Seaside Heights summer home was their primary residence, said authorities.

The couple, Laura and Anthony Cortese, both 53, were among eight people charged with filing fraudulent applications for the federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy, said acting state Attorney General John Hoffman on Tuesday.

Hoffman said the people, including the Corteses, “are alleged to have callously stolen Sandy relief funds, diverting aid from deserving recipients and forcing administrators to police this fraud instead of working exclusively to assist those hardest hit by the storm. At a time when so many stepped up to help others, these defendants are alleged to have crookedly helped themselves.”

Sign Up for E-News

The Corteses filed relief claims for a house they own on Fremont Avenue in Seaside Heights. “It is alleged that, in reality, their primary residence was in Warren and the property in Seaside Heights was a summer home,” said Hoffman. He said the couple filed an application for a low-interest Small Business Adminisration (SBA) disaster-relief loan. “They were approved for a $64,000 SBA loan, but ultimately accepted and received just $40,000 in loan proceeds,” he said.

Other applications were filed solely by Laura Cortese, said Hoffman. He said these applications yielded an extra $40,998 in relief funds, “for a total of $80,998 in federal and state grant and loan funds received between the two defendants.”

Laura Cortese applied for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program and received $28,875 in FEMA rental assistance, according to the attorney general. He said she also received a $10,000 RSP grant and a $2,123 RREM grant payment.

Laura Cortese was charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification. Anthony Cortese was charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification. 

Since March 2014, the Attorney General’s Office has filed criminal charges against 45 people, alleging they engaging in Sandy related fraud, said Hoffman. 

Two other New Jersey residents were charged in the recent complaints.

Sandra Elliott, 44, of Nutley is accused of fraudulently obtaining$93,055 by filing false applications for state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, said Hoffman. He said Elliot is accused of falsely claiming a storm-damaged property she co-owns with her parents on East Coral Drive in Brick, N.J., was her primary residence when the storm hit. “It is alleged that, in reality, Elliott’s primary residence was in Nutley, and the Brick property was a vacation home,” he said. “Elliott received a $10,000 RSP grant and a total of $83,055 in RREM grant payments to repair the Brick property. She allegedly submitted fraudulent rent receipts that falsely indicated that she had leased her Nutley home to a renter prior to the storm.”

Elliott also applied for a low-interest SBA disaster-relief loan, said Hoffman. However, her application was rejected. She faces charges of second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

Englewood resident Patrick Dori, 58, is also accused of filing fraudulent applications. He received a total of $55,902, said Hoffman.

“It is alleged that Dori falsely claimed that a storm-damaged property that he owned on Third Avenue in Seaside Heights, N.J., was his primary residence at the time Sandy hit,” said Hoffman. “It is alleged that, in reality, Dori’s primary residence was in Englewood, N.J., and the property in Seaside Heights was a summer home.”

Dori collected $31,900 in FEMA relief funds, said Hoffman, noting that figure “is the maximum amount that FEMA allocates to any individual applicant.” He said Hoffman also received a $10,000 RSP grant and a total of $14,002 from a grant under the RREM program. 

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 state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of $10,000.

“While the facts vary, the common element in all of these cases is that the defendants shamelessly lied in order to qualify for relief funds that they knew they were not entitled to receive,” said state Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig. “Our goal in these joint efforts is to recover the stolen funds and also to send a clear message that this type of fraud will be met with serious criminal charges, now and during any future disaster relief efforts.” 

The Attorney General’s Office said it is “continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs,” and is working with the state 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) and the SBA.

“DCA has been committed from day one of the Sandy recovery effort to ensuring that recovery funds get to Sandy survivors who legitimately qualify for assistance,” said DCA Commissioner Charles Richman. “As part of our charge to be good stewards of public funds, we have and will continue to vigilantly report to the proper authorities those individuals who seek to misuse Sandy recovery funds.” 

Hoffman said 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 and SBA Office of Inspector General. 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

North Plainfield/Green Brook/Watchung

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

July 10, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

Do You Recognize These Dogs?

PLAINFIELD, NJ - Two dogs were found in Plainfield near the fire station on Central Avenue on Saturday. 

The dogs are currently with a family in South Plainfield.  If you recognize the dogs, please email TAPinto Plainfield at jpopper@tapinto.net.

3rd Annual Meadowlands BBQ Battle a Smokin’ Success

July 18, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Seven competitors battled it out at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment's 3rd Annual BBQ Battle on Saturday, July 14, all vying for $2,000 in prizes and most importantly, bragging rights. 

The BBQ categories of best Ribs, Brisket, Chicken, and Pulled Pork, came with a $500 prize to the winner of each category. A panel of five judges conducted a blind ...

3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ set to Celebrate Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct 26 to 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced Thursday.

Watch the ...

Make the Call, Save a Life

July 10, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There is much focus on preventative opioid abuse education. Rightfully so. However, the goal in addressing the opioid epidemic is saving lives. Even if that means just saving one life. While people are becoming increasingly aware of resources relating to rehabilitative services, support groups for friends and family of addicts, and training parents for signs of opioid and ...

Get Ready Warren: Fireworks, Food and Family Fun At Mt. Carmel Feast

July 13, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. – It’s time again for the annual Mt. Carmel Feast, a four-day festival full of food, music, games, rides, fireworks, and other family fun, located at Mt. Carmel Field in Berkeley Heights.

The fairgrounds will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, July 13 through Monday, July 16. Those four nights will include concerts, games, and ...

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

Obituaries

South Plainfield, NJ – Margaret (Pascazio) Butfiloski, 99, passed away peacefully on June 2, ...
Read more

Upcoming Events

Mon, July 30, 11:00 AM

Watchung Library, Watchung

Touch the Music

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_a2c4ddef7ed6c72e648e_17crowd1

Thu, August 2, 4:00 PM

Milt Campbell Fields, Plainfield

Music in the Park @ Milt Campbell Field - Free ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Thu, August 2, 6:00 PM

North Plainfield Memorial Library, North Plainfield

Microwaves & Mini Fridges

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Wed, October 3, 7:00 PM

SCLSNJ's Warren Township Library branch, Warren

A History of the Old Presbyterian Graveyard in ...

Government Other

Bilenker Named Interim Superintendent in Watchung, Meet and Greet Scheduled

July 19, 2018

WATCHUNG, NJ  - Watchung parents are invited to a meet and greet with the newly appointed interim superintendent of Watchung Schools, Stephanie Bilenker, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 24, at Valley View Middle School. Borough Administrator Thomas Atkins commented on Thursday night that he plans on attending 

Bilenker, a former Green Brook Superintendent and Director ...

White Supremacist Actions Denounced

July 19, 2018

SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - Two groups denounced Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group posting of fliers in multiple Central New Jersey towns. Both statements lay blame on President Donald Trump.

The New Jersey Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) and the Somerset County Democratic Committee issued statements today. 

"The promotion of a racist and ...

White Supremacist Fliers Found in Central New Jersey Towns

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...