|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an alleged con artist from Metuchen was indicted today on charges that he preyed on victims of Superstorm Sandy by promising them low-cost housing or cars and instead stealing their money. He was charged in an investigation by the Woodbridge Police Department, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Division of Criminal Justice.
David Scott Ruddy, 32, of Metuchen, was indicted by a state grand jury on 10 counts of third-degree theft by deception. It is alleged that Ruddy visited temporary shelters in Middlesex County after Superstorm Sandy, impersonating a Red Cross worker or law enforcement officer who was there to help. At times he allegedly claimed to work for the Attorney General’s Office. Once he gained the trust of Sandy victims, he allegedly offered to rent or sell them low-cost apartments, condos or houses that he claimed to own or control. He also allegedly offered low-cost cars he said he bought at police auctions. Ruddy allegedly collected payments from the victims but did not deliver the promised housing or cars. In addition to the Sandy victims, Ruddy also allegedly targeted others with the same type of scam.
Ruddy is charged with stealing a total of approximately $55,000 from 13 victims, including seven people who were in need of housing or a car due to Sandy, and five who needed housing or a car for other reasons. The final victim needed furniture, which he allegedly falsely promised to order for her. He allegedly stole amounts from the victims that ranged from about $1,000 to $9,000. He met six of the victims at shelters after Sandy, and met three more victims through people he met at shelters. He met the remaining four victims in other ways.
“We charge that Mr. Ruddy ruthlessly preyed on people whose homes and cars were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “While these victims were at their most desperate and vulnerable, he allegedly stole the money they needed to put their lives back together, leaving some of them without a permanent place to live to this day.”
“Working with the Woodbridge Police Department, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and other agencies, we have charged Ruddy with a string of frauds,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ve formed a working group including the Division of Criminal Justice, the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, the State Police and the county prosecutors to target Sandy-related fraud. We will aggressively pursue con artists to protect the people of New Jersey as they recover and rebuild.”
The shelters where Ruddy allegedly sought victims included a shelter at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and a shelter in Old Bridge. Ruddy allegedly kept in contact with some of his victims after they left the shelters so that he could approach them later with fraudulent offers. He rented a second-floor office above a law firm on Rahway Avenue in Woodbridge, where he brought victims to sign bogus contracts for housing or vehicle purchases.
Ruddy, who sometimes uses the aliases David Castro and David Gartman, has been held in the Middlesex County Jail since his arrest on Jan. 26. He is being held on a detainer in connection with fugitive warrants issued in connection with criminal charges he faces in Georgia.
Deputy Attorney General Jillian B. Carpenter presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The investigation was led by Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department. Assistant Prosecutors Cindy Glaser, Christopher Schellhorn and Eric Snyder handled the case for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. Detectives Kimberly Allen and Scott Stevens investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The American Red Cross provided valuable assistance through Chief Investigator Frank R. Favilla of the Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics. The Metuchen Police Department and the Dunellen Police Department also provided valuable assistance.
Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Middlesex County, where Ruddy will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment on the charges.
The indictment is posted with this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
Victims of Superstorm Sandy who believe they have been cheated or scammed can contact the Sandy Fraud Working Group Hotline at 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.