TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that an Ocean County man was sentenced to state prison today for stealing over $1.4 million from more than 20 victims who hired his home improvement companies to fix their homes after Superstorm Sandy.
The victims paid Jeffrey Colmyer, 43, and his wife, Tiffany Cimino, 35, of Little Egg Harbor, N.J., and the couple’s home improvement contracting companies, to repair or rebuild their homes, primarily using Sandy relief funds. However, the couple diverted much of the money to gamble and buy luxury items, leaving homes in disrepair.
Colmyer was sentenced today to seven years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan in Ocean County. Cimino was sentenced today to a term of five years of probation. Colymer and Cimino pleaded guilty on May 29 to charges of theft by failure to make required disposition of property received. Colmyer also entered guilty pleas on that date to second-degree money laundering on behalf the couple’s companies, Rayne Construction Management Services, LLC (RCMS) and Colmyer & Sons, LLC.
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. In sentencing the defendants today, Judge Ryan ordered additional sums of restitution to the victims, bringing total restitution to more than $1.4 million. Colmyer also must pay $56,472 to the State of New Jersey for back taxes he failed to pay, and Cimino must pay $56,332 in back taxes.
Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo and William N. Conlow prosecuted the defendants and handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
“Colmyer and Cimino callously stole from Sandy victims whose homes were destroyed, compounding the hardships and distress their victims faced as they strived to rebuild after this historic storm,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By absconding with disaster relief funds and personal savings that these victims desperately needed, these defendants proved themselves to be heartless con artists.”
“We have prosecuted many cases of fraud and theft related to Superstorm Sandy, but this is perhaps the most egregious, given the amount stolen by this couple and the fact that they enriched themselves at the expense of victims who were hit hardest by this natural disaster,” 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 faced justice for their crimes.”
“New Jersey families who trusted Colmyer and Cimino to help them rebuild their homes and their lives in the wake of Superstorm Sandy were dealt another staggering blow when these two criminals took their money and ran,” said Paul R. Rodriguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Today, Colmyer is being brought to justice for callously targeting families at their most vulnerable, and stealing taxpayer funds intended to help end their suffering and restore a roof over their heads.”
“The fact that this is one of our largest Hurricane Sandy related case involving a contractor to date, in terms of the number of victims and the amount of restitution, speaks directly to the size and scope of this criminal enterprise,” said Nicholas Padilla, Assistant Inspector General, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "We commend the NJ DCJ, and our other partners in this case, for their efforts in seeking justice and prosecuting these individuals who have victimized homeowners who already lost everything as a result of Hurricane Sandy. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in NJ and across the country, to bring these bad contractors to justice and in the pursuit of those who seek to undermine the intent of federal housing disaster programs for their personal gain.”
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, Investigator 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, Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and Little Egg Harbor Township 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: James J. Leonard, Atlantic City, NJ
For Cimino: Louis Barbone, Esq., Jacobs & Barbone, PA, Atlantic City, N.J.
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