Fraud Accused In the Face of Disaster

Amid the destruction of 2012 superstorm Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey state officials are charging five individuals with filing for relief funds fraudulently.  After investigations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state government this past week, the full number of people who have been charged with receiving unfair relief after the Hurricane Sandy disaster has now been raised to 37.

Charged and Cost: The fraudulent relief funds for the five defendants totaled over $500,000. Here is the breakdown of claimants:

  • Christina Gumble of Forked River, NJ.

Gumble has been accused of filing for rental reimbursements from FEMA totaling $23,676. While she was staying at her mother’s home, she created a false lease and other legal documents to attempt to prove that she had been at a greater disadvantage than reality.

Third degree theft by deception and third degree public records tampering are the charges being levied against Christina Gumble for her lease falsification. Gumble is 54 years old. David Schlendorf, her attorney, commented on an expectation that the case will be resolved quickly.

  • Deborah Glatz of Putnam Valley, NY. She is 58 years old.
  • Susan T. Saltstein of Pennington, NJ. She is 65 years old.
  • Gregory Wagner or Toms River, NJ. He is 62 years old.
  • Laura Matarazzo of Oakland, NJ. She is 58 years old.

Glatz, along with the following three defendants, claimed that her property which was damaged in the storm was her primary place of residence—but it was only a vacation home or used primarily as a rental property.  These were stronger initial claims than those for vacation and rental homes and allowed the claimants to file for greater FEMA assistance that would have initially been closed off to them.

The charges for the above four defendants in this case include theft by deception and falsifying documents. At this time, it is only known that Matarazzo is planning to plead not guilty.

Previous Charges: In addition to the five new claimants that are listed above, there have been 32 others who were previously charged with similar offenses. Acting Attorney General John Hoffman is really cracking down recently to look into fraudulent relief claims, and those charged already are supposedly just the beginning.

Because of the widespread damage by Hurricane Sandy, it can be a slow process to confirm how many of the claims were fraudulent. The Attorney General was especially working to investigate these cases because they took away funding from people who really needed it after the storm.

Similar to the above defendants, many of the earlier charges were for people who allegedly filed for relief funds on houses that were not their primary place of residence. These claimants included former state workers Judith and Peter Larkin, Mark and Joanne Spulock, and Manny Martinez. While the defendants may indeed have experienced some sort of loss following the hurricane, filing the houses as their primary place of residence would give them a greater and unfair return from a limited pool of FEMA relief money.

If you are facing charges for insurance fraud, contact us at Zapicchi & Liller, LLP for experienced counsel on your legal options. We can be reached for a free consultation at (609) 291-9500.