Task Force Will Continue Its Work Assisting Victims of Superstorm Sandy
FREEHOLD, NJ - A year after members of the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force set up shop at the Bayshore Activity Center to help victims of the storm they will discontinue hours at that location, but people are encouraged to call the hotline or visit the website established to assist possible victims, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.
“We set out with a mission to protect and serve the victims of Superstorm Sandy from the unscrupulous contractors and predators who would look for an opportunity to defraud or engage in improper or negligent business practices in the wake of the most horrific weather event in recent memory. We are dedicated to continuing that mission and will continue to make ourselves available for anyone in need,” Gramiccioni said.
Since the creation of the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force, about 232 referrals have been received. Of those referrals, approximately 188 have been closed. About 92 Task Force cases have been referred to the Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs resulting in a tangible benefit to Sandy victims of approximately $235,000 (including direct refunds, savings in the form of negotiated bill reductions, and the value of work completed after task force involvement).
Approximately 88 cases have been examined criminally, with 63 investigations being closed. Ten of these cases have resulted in charges, with seven of those matters having been resolved.
On Friday, Shane (aka Shaine) Wood, 48, of the 200 block of Sharon Drive in Toms River, was sentenced by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Ronald Lee Reisner, J.S.C., to one-year probation with a $1,000 fine for Failure to Register with the state Division of Consumer Affairs and Uttering a Forged Instrument – both fourth degree crimes.
The Task Force is a coordinated effort between this office, and the state Office of Attorney General Divisions of Criminal Justice and Consumer Affairs, coordinating efforts with a Working Group established by the Attorney General’s Office to collect and track complaint data received from affected counties across the State. The Task Force is staffed by prosecutors, law enforcement officers and regulatory officials from a number of County and Federal agencies, including the county Prosecutor’s Office, county Department of Consumer Affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency, state Division of Taxation, and more.
The Task Force Coordinator is Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew S. Fried of the Office’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau.
Homeowners or citizens can continue to report complaints via the Task Force webpage at http://www.sandyfraud.com/ or call the Task Force hotline at (855) SANDY 39.
Acting Prosecutor Gramiccioni urges everyone to keep in mind the following list of “red flag” situations when dealing with a Home Improvement Contractors:
- Do not do business with a contractor who does not have a New Jersey Home Improvement Contractor Number (NJHIC#). Home Improvement Contractors are required to register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and obtain an NJCIC#.
- Do not do business with a contractor who shows up uninvited to offer you a “special deal” or “hurricane discount.” Remember the old adage: “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”
- Do not do business with a contractor who refuses to give you a written estimate.
- Do not do business with a contractor who refuses to give you a written contract. Under state law, home improvement contractors are required to provide a written contract for any project costing $500 or more, but the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force recommends obtaining a written contract for all projects.
- Do not do business with a contractor who cannot provide you with verifiable HIC commercial general liability insurance in the amount of $500,000 per occurrence, as required by law.
- Do not do business with a contractor who asks for full payment up front. It is recommended instead that you pay a certain amount in advance with subsequent payments tied to stages of work completion.
- Do not do business with a contractor who demands cash. If you must pay in cash, insist on a dated receipt, signed by the contractor, reflecting the amount paid and the purpose of the payment.
- Do not do business with a contractor who offers to inflate your claim in order to save you the cost of your deductible. This is insurance fraud and it is illegal.
- Do not do business with a contractor who asks you to sign paperwork saying you will be responsible for the cost of labor/materials if the contractor fails to pay.
All County residents who suspect they might be a victim of criminal activity, civil fraud or improper business practices in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy are urged to contact the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force online at SandyFraud.com or call at 855-SANDY39.