A Staten Island, New York couple stands accused of defrauding the federal government out of $750,000 by pretending that they owned a home that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Nagwa Elsilimy and Ahmed Arafa were charged with fraud by making false statements to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Court documents show that Elsilimy and Arafa claimed they owned a home in Staten Island as their primary residence when the Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012.
But court documents show that they actually abandoned the home seven months before the storm hit, but still claimed that they lived there and used that deception to “unlawfully obtain” over $750,000 in aid intended for people displaced by the storm, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
Specifically, court documents allege that Elsilimy and Arafa falsely represented that a home they had abandoned before the storm was their primary residence at the time Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in October 2012.
But, they’d been living at a different address since at least March 2012, and when the storm hit Staten Island, their alleged primary residence was had been empty for some time.
“Taking advantage of funds intended for disaster relief misappropriates taxpayer dollars, reduces monies available to true victims and erodes public confidence in relief programs,” Bridget Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said. “This Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to root out such alleged illegal behavior.”
Also assisting in the investigation was the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.
“The Defendants’ alleged conduct is disturbing, especially during this time when the public is reminded of the devastation that historic storms leave with thousands of victims,” HUD-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Christina Scaringi said.
“The taxpayer has no tolerance for those who would steal from Federal public aid – the sole goal of which is to help victims rebuild and move forward with their lives,” Scaringi added. “We, along with our federal and state law enforcement and prosecution partners, will continue to aggressively pursue fraudsters who engage in such unacceptable behavior to both the public and their neighbor.”