Little Egg Harbor Couple Arrested on Sandy Fraud ChargesContractors Allegedly Bilked $1M From 26 Victims
Two Little Egg Harbor residents were arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from 26 victims who hired the couple’s home improvement companies to repair or rebuild their homes after Superstorm Sandy. Detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice arrested Jeffrey Colmyer, 41, and Tiffany Cimino, 43, on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
The couple, who live together, were charged with a range of second-degree offenses including theft, money laundering, and misconduct by a corporate official, and failure to pay taxes and tax fraud, both third-degree offenses.
The victims paid Colmyer, Cimino and their firms over $1 million, mostly in Sandy relief funds, but the couple allegedly diverted much of the money to gamble and buy luxury items, leaving homes in disrepair. They remain in the Ocean County Jail with bail set at $300,000 each.
Charges also were filed against the couple’s home improvement contracting companies, Rayne Construction Management Services, LLC (RCMS) and Colmyer & Sons Construction, LLC.
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs previously investigated Colmyer and Cimino and filed a civil action in August against the defendants, alleging numerous violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and seeking consumer restitution and civil penalties.
The criminal charges stem from a joint investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial and 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, with the assistance of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Colmyer and Cimino allegedly diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars their victims paid to have their homes repaired, elevated and rebuilt. The couple allegedly used the funds to pay personal expenses, including payments for new cars, jewelry purchases by Cimino, including a $17,000 diamond ring, and hundreds of thousands of dollars that Colmyer lost to gambling at seven casinos in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, they abandoned jobs, or in many cases failed to even start jobs, leaving their victims with uninhabitable homes.
Most of the funds that allegedly were stolen came from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program, a Sandy relief program administered by the N.J.Department of Community Affairs and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The RREM program is 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 emergency relief funds or other sources.
The civil complaint filed in August against Colmyer and Cimino by the Division of Consumer Affairs alleges that the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors’ Registration Act, the Home Elevation Regulations, the Home Improvement Regulations and the Advertising Regulations.
It specifies some of the damages done to Sandy victims including: failing to complete work by dates they provided, abandoning jobs and leaving homes uninhabitable, including raising a home and leaving it up on pilings without any access to the home; leaving a home exposed to the elements for months and thereby causing extensive damage; leaving a home without water service, sewer service, a roof, windows, siding, any insulation, plumbing, HVAC, interior walls, a kitchen or bathroom; performing substandard work, including incorrectly installing waste lines; installing unsafe electrical wiring; incorrectly suspending floor joists; cutting laminated beams too short; leaving rotted plywood sheathing on a house and covering it with new siding; installing a new roof that leaked; and failing to make the necessary corrective repairs. The work that was done repeatedly failed inspections.
They also failed to maintain general liability insurance.
Colmyer also allegedly told clients that he was “out of money,” and asked for additional monies, then threatened to walk off the job.
“Colmyer and Cimino heartlessly preyed on homeowners who were devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” said New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino. “Just when victims were thrown a lifeline in the form of Sandy relief funds and were trying to reclaim their lives, this couple allegedly stole their money and snatched that lifeline away. We’ll ensure these defendants are held accountable for their ruthless criminal conduct.”
The Division of Criminal Justice, working with state and federal law enforcement partners, has charged over 70 defendants with various types of fraud related to Superstorm Sandy. “This case is the most egregious to date in terms of the dollars involved and harm inflicted on innocent victims,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.
Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles Richman said the state has committed itself to rooting out fraud, theft and other illegal conduct as the affected areas rebuild from Sandy.
RCMS and Colmyer & Sons also are charged with theft, money laundering, structuring, and tampering with public records. The tampering charge relates to the fact that the defendants allegedly lied about Colmyer’s ownership interest in RCMS in applying for and obtaining a Home Elevation Contractor Registration through the Division of Consumer Affairs. The defendants allegedly falsely claimed that Colmyer had less than a 10 percent interest in RCMS, because the application requires that anyone with an interest of 10 percent or more disclose whether he or she has been convicted of certain crimes, such as theft. Colmyer has two prior convictions for theft by failure to make required disposition of property.
Porrino 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 Township Police Department for their valuable assistance in the investigation.
— Pat Johnson