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Wyckoff Homeowner Charged With $201,861 Superstorm Sandy Scam

Michael A. Avena,
Michael A. Avena, Photo Credit: COURTESY: NJ Attorney General

WYCKOFF, N.J. -- A Wyckoff homeowner collected nearly $201,861 in taxpayer-funded Superstorm Sandy relief by claiming his damaged Jersey Shore home as his primary residence, state authorities charged.

The home that Michael A. Avena, 65, owns on 5th Avenue in Ortley Beach that was damaged by the historic storm Superstorm Sandy is actually a vacation home, state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.

By lying on applications, Avena received $31,900 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, RREM grant funds totaling $150,000 and $9,961 in SHRAP funds, Porrino said.

Authorities charged Avena with theft by deception and unsworn falsification.

Also charged Thursday was a Tenafly couple who authorities said collected nearly $162,270 in taxpayer-funded Superstorm Sandy relief they weren't entitled to .

Since March 2014, the Attorney General’s Office has filed criminal charges against nearly 100 people accusing them of similar fraud -- including four charged on on Thursday -- who collected a combined $6 million in relief funds that Porrino said they weren't entitled to.

“Charging 100 defendants in these relief-fraud cases is a sad milestone, in that it highlights how many people are willing, in the face of a historic disaster, to dishonestly exploit an offer of aid meant for those who were hardest hit,” the attorney general said.

“At the same time, we’re proud of our collaborative efforts, which have recovered millions of dollars and sent an unmistakable message that those who commit this fraud will face serious criminal charges, now and during any future disasters," he said.

“Stealing any type of public aid is reprehensible," added New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig, "but it’s especially egregious to steal relief funds in the context of a historic disaster, when every dollar is needed for recovery.”

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