Woman Accused of Collecting Nearly $12,000 for Property She Leased to Tenants

FREEHOLD, NJ - A Monmouth County grand jury has indicted a Middletown woman charged with Theft after she was found defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency of nearly $12,000 in disaster assistance, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Colleen Bowers, 32, of Middletown, was indicted earlier this week on a lone charge of third degree Theft by Deception for defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by applying for FEMA Disaster Assistance money in the wake of Superstorm Sandy by identifying a property she owns and leased to tenants as her primary residence.

An investigation by the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force led by this Office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined that just days after Superstorm Sandy made landfall in Monmouth County, Bowers registered with FEMA and made application for disaster assistance for damage to her property at 17 Griggs Ave., in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown.

In the application Bowers specifically identified the property as her primary residence, but at no time did she live at that location with her tenants. The investigation further revealed, the tenants of 17 Griggs Ave., would deliver their rent payments to Bowers residence in Highlands. By virtue of the information included in her application to FEMA, Bowers was awarded about $11,839 for disaster assistance. Bowers actions came to light when the tenants of the property registered and applied for FEMA disaster assistance in the aftermath of the storm only to be denied because the landlord had already filed an application.

Bowers was served with the complaint filed against her. She remains free with no bail set at this time pending a future court date.

If convicted of theft by Deception, Bowers faces a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew S. Fried, of the Office's Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau, who serves as Coordinator of the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force.

The Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force continues to process and investigate all complaints related to the storm. Homeowners or citizens are urged to report complaints via the following:

* The Task Force webpage at www.SandyFraud.com 
* Call the Task Force hotline at (855) SANDY 39.