Sunday, February 14, 2016

Four accused of lying on Sandy aid forms


UPDATE: Prosecutors dismissed charges against Rita O'Connor, 60, of Toms River, on June 18, 2015, after O'Connor completed a pretrial intervention program.

Four people were charged Wednesday with allegedly filing bogus applications for Hurricane Sandy-related federal relief funds.

“The circumstances of these new cases vary widely, but all four defendants are alleged to have shamelessly falsified information to drain Sandy relief funds away from legitimate applicants,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a statement.

Mary Conlin, 51, of West Chester, Pa., allegedly received $137,400 in disaster-relief loan proceeds from the U.S. Small Business Administration after falsely claiming that a storm-damaged vacation home in Manahawkin was her primary residence.

Prosecutors said Leonor Canales, 40, of Orlando, Fla., received $22,172 in Federal Emergency Management Agency rental assistance after the apartment she rented in Elizabeth, N.J. was damaged by the hurricane.

She allegedly failed to disclose that her rent was covered by federal Section 8 housing subsidies and submitted numerous false receipts indicating she’d personally paid the rent.

Rita O’Connor, 60, of Toms River, is accused of fraudulently obtaining $2,270 in FEMA rental assistance by falsifying checks and receipts for two months of rent she supposedly paid to her daughter for a home in Ridgewood.

Prosecutors said that O’Connor’s daughter did not own the home and that O’Connor never actually rented it.

Magdi Mosaid, 55, of Hasbrouck Heights, allegedly filed two fraudulent applications for Homeowner Resettlement Program grants in connection with storm-damaged properties in Little Ferry and Rochelle Park.

Though, on each application, Mosaid indicated the home was his primary residence, both are actually rental properties he owns as a landlord, according to investigators.

No funds were paid because the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs flagged the claims, as they reflected multiple primary residences for a single applicant.

Conlin, Canales and Mosaid are each charged with fourth-degree unsworn falsification. Conlin is also charged with second-degree theft by deception, while Canales and O’Connor are charged with third-degree theft by deception.

Mosaid faces two additional counts of third-degree attempted theft by deception.

Second-degree charges carry a maximum possible prison sentence of 10 years, third-degree sentences are punishable by a maximum of five years and fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months.

Including the most recent round of allegations, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has, since March, filed criminal charges against 12 people for allegedly lying on Sandy relief forms.

Officials say they will continue to investigate suspected incidents of fraud and misappropriation of disaster-relief funds.

“With these ongoing prosecutions, we’re delivering a wake-up call to anyone who would consider taking Sandy relief funds through fraud,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said in a statement. “Falsifying these applications is a crime, and anyone who does it will be caught and charged as a criminal.”

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.
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