An Oakland woman scammed the state and federal governments for nearly $109,000 in Hurricane Sandy relief by claiming that her Jersey Shore beach house was her primary residence, authorities said.
Laura Matarazzo, 58, was one of five people charged by state authorities, boosting the overall total to 37 in the past year and a half, acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
Matarazzo collected $5,090 in FEMA relief funds and state-administered HUD grants totaling $93,787 after claimint that a storm-damaged home she owned in Lavalette "was her primary residence at the time Sandy struck," Hoffman said. "In fact, her primary residence was in Oakland, and the home in Lavallette was a vacation/rental property."
Authorities charged her with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
Of the dozens charged in Sandy scams so far, most "filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by [FEMA]," Hoffman said. "In some cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by HUD or low-interest disaster loans from the SBA."
“Collecting government assistance through fraud is always a deplorable crime," he said, "but it’s far more egregious in these cases because the defendants allegedly siphoned relief funds away from deserving recipients and forced administrators to spend time policing fraud rather than focusing exclusively on aiding victims in the wake of this historic natural disaster.”
"We’re not finished,” added state Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig. “We’re committed to these aggressive efforts with our state and federal partners, because we need to deter this fraud, not only in relation to Sandy, but for any future disasters that might spawn this type of dishonest and selfish conduct.”
The new cases were investigated by detectives from Honig's office 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.
Deputy Attorneys General William Conlow, Valerie Noto, T.J. Harker and Peter Gallagher are prosecuting, working with Lt. David Nolan, Sgt. Fred Weidman and Analyst Alison Callery of the DCA. Other participating investigators include Detectives Michael Arduini, Terrence Bui and Jack Campanella.
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