TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that an Ocean County couple pleaded guilty today to stealing over $1.4 million from more than 20 victims who hired the couple’s home improvement companies to fix their homes after Superstorm Sandy. The victims paid the couple and their firms to repair or rebuild their homes, primarily using Sandy relief funds, but the couple allegedly diverted much of the money to gamble and buy luxury items, leaving homes in disrepair.
Jeffrey Colmyer, 42, and Tiffany Cimino, 34, of Little Egg Harbor, N.J., pleaded guilty today to charges of theft by failure to make required disposition of property received before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan in Ocean County. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreements, the state will recommend that Colmyer be sentenced to seven years in state prison, and that Cimino be sentenced to a term of probation.
Colmyer also entered guilty pleas to second-degree money laundering on behalf the couple’s home improvement contracting companies, Rayne Construction Management Services, LLC (RCMS) and Colmyer & Sons, LLC. Sentencing for the defendants is scheduled for September 7.
The Attorney General’s Office, through the Division of Consumer Affairs and Division of Law, previously obtained a consent order in a lawsuit against the couple and their companies, under which the defendants must pay $695,402 in restitution to victims and $655,243 to the State of New Jersey as restitution for stolen Sandy relief funds. It is a condition of the plea agreement that the defendants pay those sums, as well as an additional $104,000 in restitution to five more victims that have been identified, bringing total restitution to $1,454,645. Colmyer also must pay $56,472 to the State of New Jersey for back taxes that he failed to pay.
Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo and William N. Conlow prosecuted the case and took the guilty pleas for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
“Colmyer and Cimino heartlessly preyed on Sandy victims whose homes had been destroyed, stealing the relief funds that were the lifeline these victims needed to rebuild in the aftermath of the historic storm,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By sending Colmyer to prison, we deliver a strong deterrent message that anyone willing to sink so low as to steal disaster relief money from victims will face a stern reckoning.”
“The depth of greed and ruthless opportunism exhibited by this couple is hard to fathom,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend all of the federal, state and local partners who worked with us to ensure that this couple will face justice for their crimes, which caused more grief and hardship for victims who were among those hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.”
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 diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars their victims paid to have their homes repaired, elevated and rebuilt. The couple used the funds to pay personal expenses, including jewelry purchases by Cimino, 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 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.
The case was investigated by Detective Michael Arduini, Detective Jordan Thompson, Deputy Attorney General Nicodemo and former Analyst Alison Callery of the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Lt. David Nolan, Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and former 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 handled the state’s forfeiture action.
Attorney General Grewal 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 Grewal 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 was handled by Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law.
For Colmyer: Todd S. Wilson, Esq., Toms River, N.J.
For Cimino: Louis Barbone, Esq., Jacobs & Barbone, PA, Atlantic City, N.J.
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