|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that an Ocean County couple was indicted today by a state grand jury for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 20 victims who hired the couple’s home improvement companies to repair or rebuild their homes after Superstorm Sandy. The victims paid the couple and their firms over $1 million, mostly in Sandy relief funds, but the couple allegedly diverted much of the money to gamble and buy luxury items, leaving homes in disrepair.
Jeffrey Colmyer, 41, and Tiffany Cimino, 33, who live together in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., were indicted today, along with their home improvement contracting companies, Rayne Construction Management Services, LLC (RCMS) and Colmyer & Sons, LLC, on charges of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree theft by failure to make required disposition of property received, two counts of second-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity (money laundering), second-degree misconduct by a corporate official, third-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity (structuring) and third-degree tampering with public records or information. Colmyer and Cimino also are charged various third-degree counts of filing a fraudulent tax return, failure to file tax returns, and failure to pay taxes.
The couple was arrested on Oct. 11, 2016, in a joint investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General and the New Jersey Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation. Those agencies were assisted by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, which previously investigated the matter and filed a civil action last year against the defendants, alleging numerous violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and seeking consumer restitution and civil penalties, among other things.
Colmyer and Cimino allegedly diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars their victims paid to have their homes repaired, elevated and rebuilt. The couple allegedly used the funds to pay personal expenses, including jewelry purchases by Cimino, including a $17,000 diamond ring, and hundreds of thousands of dollars that Colmyer gambled at seven casinos in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, they abandoned jobs, or in many cases failed to even start jobs, leaving many victims with uninhabitable homes. Most of the funds that allegedly were stolen came from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, a Sandy relief program administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The RREM Program was the state’s largest Sandy housing recovery program and provided grants to impacted homeowners to cover rebuilding costs up to $150,000 that were not covered by insurance, other federal relief funds, or other sources.
“Colmyer and Cimino allegedly stole $700,000 from homeowners devastated by Superstorm Sandy, ruthlessly draining away relief funds the victims needed to reclaim their lives so they could instead use the money to bankroll their own gambling and luxuries,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We have prosecuted scores of defendants for various types of fraud related to Sandy, but this case is by far the most egregious.”
“Financial fraud doesn’t get much more loathsome than this,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These defendants compounded the predicament of victims who were among the hardest hit by the storm, pulling the safety net out from under them.”
“Homeowners desperate to rebuild their homes and get on with their lives in the wake of this monstrous storm put their money and their trust in these defendants, only to watch these alleged swindlers walk away with the cash, leaving them with little or nothing to show for it,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The defendants callously dealt another staggering blow to Sandy victims who had already suffered tremendous losses.”
“Unfortunately, natural disasters can attract swindlers who target people when they are at a vulnerable point in their lives,” said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles A. Richman. “For this reason, the State has committed itself from day one to rooting out fraud, theft and other illegal conduct as we rebuild from Sandy. Today’s announcement demonstrates this commitment and the seriousness with which we pursue con artists who bilk Sandy survivors for their own personal gain.”
Deputy Attorney General John A. Nicodemo presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. He conducted the investigation with Detective Michael Arduini, Detective Jordan Thompson and former Analyst Alison Callery, under the supervision of Lt. David Nolan, Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and Bureau Chief Michael A. Monahan. They worked with Special Agents from the HUD Office of Inspector General. Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller and Civil Investigator Debra Maiorano of the state’s forfeiture unit also assisted.
Attorney General Porrino thanked the Department of Community Affairs and the Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation, HUD-OIG, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the Little Egg Harbor Twp. Police Department for their valuable assistance in the investigation. Special Agent Kyle Mullane investigated for the Division of Taxation.
Attorney General Porrino also commended the Division of Consumer Affairs for their investigation, lawsuit and cooperation. Investigators Joseph Iasso and Brittany Kieran investigated for the Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection. The lawsuit is being handled by Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law.
The tampering charge relates to the fact that the defendants allegedly lied about Colmyer’s ownership interest in RCMS in applying for and obtaining a Home Elevation Contractor Registration through the Division of Consumer Affairs. The defendants allegedly falsely claimed that Colmyer had less than a 10 percent interest in RCMS, because the application requires that anyone with an interest of 10 percent or more disclose whether he or she has been convicted of certain crimes, such as theft. Colmyer has two prior convictions for theft by failure to make required disposition of property.
Colmyer and Cimino posted bond of $150,000 each after their arrests and were released from jail. Since their arrests, the Division of Consumer Affairs has concluded its civil action against the defendants. As a result of the Division’s civil action, the Department of Community Affairs has disbursed an additional $776,000 in federal relief funds to allow RREM recipients who were alleged victims of Colmyer and Cimino to hire new contractors to repair their storm-damaged properties so they can finally return home.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The money laundering and structuring charges carry sentences consecutive to the sentence for the theft charge, and carry potential additional penalties of $250,000 and $75,000, respectively. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are 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 Ocean County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
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