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November 10, 2016

Five charged for allegedly filing for relief funds intended for Superstorm Sandy victims

Five more people are facing criminal charges for allegedly filing false applications for federal funds intended to benefit those hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office announced Thursday.

Stephen Hewitt, 64, and his wife, Sharon Hewitt, 60, of Westville; Mary Eileen Adams, 63, of Glenmoore, Pennsylvania; Janie Spataro, 52, of Beachwood, New Jersey; and Lisa Drew, 45, of Camden, are all facing charges related to filing for relief funds that were extended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Lisa Drew/NJAG

Stephen Hewitt/NJAG

Sharon Hewitt/NJAG

Many also allegedly applied for aid from the state of New Jersey given to those impacted by the 2012 hurricane that damaged close to 350,000 houses and left more than 20,000 homes completely unlivable. 

Those charged Thursday join 71 others who have also been charged since March 2014 for allegedly committing similar crimes.

“We charge that these defendants stole from disaster relief programs and by extension from the victims who were hardest hit by the storm,” Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement. “We’ll continue to charge every cheat we identify."

Mary Eileen Adams/NJAG

Janie Spataro/NJAG

The five charged allegedly received funds ranging from between $9,000 to $50,000.

Stephen and Sharon Hewitt both allegedly took in $52,146 after claiming that their house in Little Egg Harbor Township, which they allegedly said was their primary home, was damaged by the storm. That home was the couple's summer/vacation spot, while their permanent residence is in Westville, according to the Attorney General's Office.

“Stealing any type of public aid is reprehensible, but it’s especially egregious to steal relief funds in the context of a historic disaster, when every dollar is needed for recovery,” Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to pursue these prosecutions with our state and federal partners, so we can guard these funds and deter this type of criminal conduct in future emergencies.”