A U.S. Navy veteran from Lodi who works as a postal carrier pocketed $37,822 in taxpayer-funded Superstorm Sandy relief by claiming his damaged Jersey Shore home as his primary residence, state authorities charged.
The home that 51-year-old Peter Raia Jr. owns on Lincoln Avenue in Seaside Heights that was damaged by the historic storm is actually a summer/weekend property, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
By lying on applications, Raia received $5,640 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, $14,000 in SBA loan proceeds, and $8,182 in SHRAP funds, Grewal said.
Authorities charged him with theft by deception and released him pending a hearing.
Since March 2014, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has filed similar charges against 120 people accusing them of collecting a combined $6 million in relief funds that Grewal said they weren't entitled to.
State authorities have recovered $2.2 million of that money so far -- and, in doing, so "have sent a strong message that should deter this type of fraud during future disaster relief efforts," the attorney general said.
“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,” Grewal said.
Director Veronica Allende of the state Division of Criminal Justice noted that renters, as well, have been charged with falsely claiming they were displaced by the storm or lost personal property.
"This collaborative state and federal initiative will undoubtedly serve as a model for other jurisdictions that face these issues in future disaster relief efforts,” Allende said.
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