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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
September 28, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Vaughn L. McKoy, Director

 

Paul Loriquet
609-292-4791
Rachel Sacharow
609-984-1936
E.J. Miranda
609-292-6055

 

Division Of Criminal Justice Investigation Targets Participants Who Defrauded State Program That Prevents Homelessness
3 Individuals and 4 Corporations Plead Guilty In Mercer County Superior Court to Theft and Official Misconduct Charges...
Investigation of False Claims Continuing... More Criminal Charges Anticipated...

TRENTON — Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced that a certified public accountant, a nurse and a waitress, along with four privately-owned corporations, have pleaded guilty in Mercer County Superior Court to charges that they participated in a scheme which defrauded the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) out of more than $33,800 in public monies earmarked to prevent individuals and families from losing their homes. The ongoing investigation targets an alleged conspiracy to file false applications for financial benefits through DCA's Homelessness Prevention Program.

“The prosecution of these individuals is just a first step in an ongoing investigation that targets theft and fraud in a state-operated program geared to help individuals and families stay in their homes,” said Attorney General Harvey. “The allegations under investigation include obtaining public resources through fraudulent means and then covering-up the illegal conduct to thwart the Division of Criminal Justice investigation. Additional criminal charges against other defendants are anticipated.”

The Department of Community Affairs reported the infractions to the Division of Criminal Justice when program officials suspected questionable activity. DCA is cooperating in the probe.

According to Vaughn L. McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice, the Special Prosecutions Bureau filed criminal Accusations, and obtained guilty pleas, from three individuals and four privately-held corporations. The individual defendants, charged with theft by deception, are identified as:

  • Carletta Smith, 31, Smithwold Road, Somerset, Somerset County. Occupation: Certified Public Accountant, self-employed landlord, and the owner-of-record for the corporations charged in the criminal Accusation(s);
  • Monica Smith, 28, Main Street, Spotswood, Middlesex County. Occupation: Waitress;
  • Lisa Smith Foster, 34, N. American Drive, Howell, Monmouth County. Occupation: Nurse.

Each of the corporations named in the Accusation are purportedly owned by defendant Carletta Smith. The corporate defendants each pleaded guilty to a charge of official misconduct. They are identified as:

  • C&C Financial Group LLC, 16 South Ave., Cranford, Union County;
  • CCB Investments LLC, 16 South Ave., Cranford, Union County;
  • Jonah Investment Group LLC, 16 South Ave., Cranford, Union County;
  • 96 Eaton Place LLC, 16 South Ave., Cranford, Union County.

The Accusations and guilty pleas were entered before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Maria Marinari Sypek on Sept. 28. The Accusation requires the defendants to pay full restitution of $33,859 to the DCA. At the time of the plea, Lisa Smith Foster was admitted into PTI. Carletta Smith will forfeit her CPA license and she and the corporate defendants will also forfeit $101,577. Monica Smith will receive probation. Sentencing for the individual and corporate defendants is scheduled for November 18, 2005.

The Accusations allege that from January through August, 2004, the defendants (individual and corporate) falsified applications for financial benefits made available through DCA’s Homelessness Prevention Program. The Homelessness Prevention Program provides grants to eligible individuals and families who, through no fault of their own, are in jeopardy of becoming homeless. The program can provide money to pay back rent to keep a household in their current home and would also provide an applicant with the initial rent and a security deposit for a new residence if they have been evicted. In order to obtain benefits, an applicant must demonstrate income sufficient to maintain a residence after the grant is exhausted. Applicants must also provide background information on household members, income, and other financial information.

The ongoing investigation determined that the defendants allegedly submitted more than a dozen potentially fraudulent applications to the Homelessness Prevention Program. The applicants claimed that they were victims of residential fire and, as a result, were temporarily homeless and eligible for benefits under the Homelessness Prevention Program. The investigation identified at least 14 fraudulent claims were submitted by Carletta Smith, Lisa Smith-Foster, Monica Smith, and the corporate defendants. As a result of the fraudulent claims, DCA paid $33,859 in benefits to the defendants.

"This program helps families in desperate financial straits stay in their homes while they regain economic stability," said DCA Acting Commissioner Charles A. Richman. "It is disgraceful that there are people who find ways to profit from the misfortune of others. Since discovering and reporting these offenses to the Attorney General, we have implemented measures to secure the program from abuse."

The prosecution is coordinated by Deputy Attorney General Anthony Picione assigned to the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecutions Bureau. The investigation is being conducted by State Investigator’s Joseph Caloiaro, Rob Feriozzi, Kiersten Pentony and New Jersey State Police detectives Dustin Lesnever, Gerald Nachurski and Gregory Shawaryn assigned to the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecutions Bureau. The investigation was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecutions Bureau by the Department of Community Affairs.

“In pleading guilty to the these charges, the defendants admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments from the Homelessness Prevention Program and then using the monies for personal expenses. The investigation is active and ongoing and is geared to uncover all of the persons who participated in the alleged fraud,” said Director McKoy.

A copy of the Accusation(s), plea agreement, and Waiver of Indictment is available via the Division of Criminal Justice Web site at: www.njdcj.org.

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