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For Immediate Release: For Further Information:
February 23, 2018

Office of The Attorney General
- Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Elie Honig, Director
Media Inquiries-
Peter Aseltine
609-292-4791
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Attorney General’s Office Charges Five More Individuals with Filing False Applications for Superstorm Sandy Relief Funds
AG’s Office has charged 109 defendants in historic anti-fraud program with state & federal partners
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TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the Attorney General’s Office and its state and federal partners have charged five new defendants with filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy, bringing the total number of defendants charged by the office in these cases to 109 since March 2014.

“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,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We have recovered over $2 million through these prosecutions and we also have sent a strong message that should deter this type of fraud during future disaster relief efforts.”

“DCA remains committed to pursuing people who steal Sandy recovery funds for their own personal gain,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, DCA Commissioner. “This ensures that taxpayer dollars are going to Sandy survivors who legitimately qualify for assistance.”

The 109 people charged by the Attorney General’s Office were allegedly responsible for diverting over $6 million in relief funds. The office is continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working jointly with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also assisting the taskforce is the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, New Jersey Department of the Treasury Office of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The defendants are alleged, in most cases, to have filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In many cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by HUD, low-interest disaster loans from the SBA, or funds from HHS. The HUD funds are administered in New Jersey by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the HHS funds are administered by the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The following five defendants were charged over the past two days by complaint-summons:

  • David Silva, 64, of Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $177,225 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. Silva allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on South Spinnaker Drive in Little Egg Harbor Township, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, at the time of the storm, his primary residence was in Edison, and the home in Little Egg Harbor Township was a vacation/seasonal property. As a result of the alleged false applications, Silva received $5,090 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, RREM grant funds totaling $150,000, and $12,135 in SHRAP funds. Silva is charged with second-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
  • Appolonia DiPiazza, 53, of Lodi, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. As a result, she received a total of approximately $125,159 in relief funds. It is alleged that DiPiazza falsely claimed in her applications that a home she owns on East Mohawk Avenue in Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence at the time Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, her primary residence at the time of the storm was in Lodi, and the home in Little Egg Harbor Township was a summer/weekend property. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, DiPiazza received $2,270 from FEMA, $112,889 in RREM grant funds, and a $10,000 RSP grant. DiPiazza is charged with second-degree theft by deception.
  • Wayne DesRosiers, 72, of Roseland, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $47,787 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. DesRosiers allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on Newark Avenue in Lavalette, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence at the time of the storm was in Roseland, and the home in Lavalette was a vacation/seasonal property. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, DesRosiers received $31,900 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, and $5,887 in SHRAP funds. DesRosiers is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
  • Joseph Ponsoda, 33, of Belle Mead, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP). As a result, he allegedly received approximately $26,992 in relief funds to which he was not entitled. Ponsoda allegedly falsely claimed in his applications that a home he owns on Pershing Boulevard in Lavalette, N.J., which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was his primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, his primary residence at the time of the storm was in Belle Mead, and the home in Lavalette was a vacation/seasonal property. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Ponsoda received $2,820 from FEMA, a $10,000 RSP grant, and $14,172 in SHRAP funds. He is charged with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.
  • Nancy Nocera, 60, of Brielle, N.J., allegedly filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance and a state grant under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP). As a result, she allegedly received approximately $12,270 in relief funds to which she was not entitled. Nocera allegedly falsely claimed in her applications that a home she owns on Chester Avenue in Brielle, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was her primary residence when Sandy struck. It is alleged that, in fact, at the time of the storm, her primary residence was in Staten Island, N.Y., and the home in Brielle was a rental home occupied by a tenant. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Nocera received $2,270 from FEMA and a $10,000 RSP grant. Nocera is charged with third-degree theft by deception.

“This historic anti-fraud initiative is a model of state and federal collaboration, which continues to produce results in terms of defendants charged and relief funds recovered,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ve recovered over $2 million and stand to recover much more by ensuring that all defendants pay full restitution.”

The new cases were investigated by detectives of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and special agents and inspectors of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, HUD Office of Inspector General, SBA Office of Inspector General, HHS Office of Inspector General and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted. Deputy Attorneys General William Conlow, Alyssa Bloom, Supriya Prasad and Thomas Huynh are prosecuting the new defendants under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, Chief of the Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa, Deputy Bureau Chief. Lt. David Nolan and Sgt. Fred Weidman conducted and coordinated the investigations for the Division of Criminal Justice, with others, including Special Civil Investigators James Parolski, Ronald Rauer and Vicki Vreeland.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to$150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, resulting in an unprecedented level of damage. Almost immediately, the affected areas were declared federal disaster areas, making residents eligible for FEMA relief. FEMA grants are provided to repair damaged homes and replace personal property. In addition, rental assistance grants are available for impacted homeowners. FEMA allocates up to $31,900 per applicant for federal disasters. To qualify for FEMA relief, applicants must affirm that the damaged property was their primary residence at the time of the storm.

In addition to the FEMA relief funds, HUD allocated $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for storm victims on the East Coast. New Jersey received $2.3 billion in CDBG funds for housing-related programs, including $215 million that was allocated for the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and $1.1 billion that was allocated for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program. Under RSP, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is disbursing grants of $10,000 to encourage homeowners affected by Sandy to remain in the nine counties most seriously impacted by the storm: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties. The RREM Program, which is the state’s largest housing recovery program, provides grants to Sandy-impacted homeowners to cover rebuilding costs up to $150,000 that are not funded by insurance, FEMA, SBA loans, or other sources.

The Small Business Administration provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and most private nonprofit organizations. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars or appliances damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for a loan of up to $200,000 to replace or repair their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition. Secondary homes or vacation properties are not eligible for these loans, but qualified rental properties may be eligible for assistance under the business loan program.

The Disaster Relief Act provided HHS approximately $760 million in funding for Sandy victims. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) received approximately $577 million in Sandy funding through three grant programs, including the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program, which received nearly $475 million to help five states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland). New Jersey received over $226 million for a wide range of social services directly related to the disaster. New Jersey used SSBG funds to develop the Sandy Homeowner/Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP) to assist individuals/families with expenses for housing and other related needs.


Defense Attorneys

  • For Silva: Maria D. Noto, Esq., Matawan, N.J.
  • For DiPiazza: Kenneth A. Porro, Esq., Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo, PC, Secaucus, N.J.
  • For DesRosiers: Joel I. Rachmiel, Esq., Springfield, N.J.
  • For Ponsoda: Undetermined.
  • For Nocera: William P. Cunningham, Esq., Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach, Toms River, N.J.

Follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flicker & YouTube. The social media links provided are for reference only. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.

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