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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey has launched a statewide Sandy Fraud Working Group in an effort to track down and prosecute those trying to scam the system as residents recover from the superstorm.
State Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced the formation of the working group, which is a coordinated effort among several state and local agencies. The effort is designed to ensure civil cases are prosecuted as efficiently as possible, according to officials.
“Whether it’s insurance fraud, whether it’s a criminal issue, whether it’s a consumer impact,” Chiesa told WCBS 880′s Levon Putney.
“If you’re getting jerked around by a home contractor, you should let us know. If you feel you’re being given the run-around, things aren’t happening,” Chiesa told Putney. “Err on the side of caution and call us if they have a concern.”
The state has set up a hotline at 855-SANDY39 (855-726-3939) and website StopSandyFraud.org so victims or witnesses of fraud can report it to authorities.
“Though most New Jerseyans responded to Superstorm Sandy with resilience and generosity, some individuals, unfortunately, are motivated by the desire to take advantage of the misfortune of others. Such abuse will not be tolerated,” Chiesa said. “We have formed the Statewide Sandy Fraud Working Group to coordinate the efforts of the primary law enforcement and investigative agencies, criminal and civil, state and local, with a stake in this fight. Victims or witnesses of fraud should contact the working group directly with tips and complaints. We will ensure that all information is acted on by the appropriate agency, that all necessary information is shared across jurisdictional lines, and that all appropriate charges are brought.”
The FBI also has a federal Sandy fraud task force.
“Whether it’s other governmental agencies, other charities and also individual homeowners,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Douglas Veivia told Putney.
Veivia said their focus is on issues larger than shady contractors.
“Any money that is fraudulently spent through someone that’s not entitled actually diverts aid from those that are properly entitled,” Veivia said.
More than $1 billion in federal aid has been given to Sandy victims so far.
The AG’s office has already prosecuted dozens of Sandy-related fraud cases, including gas price gouging, unregistered contractors and bogus charities set up in the aftermath of the storm.
State officials previously set up a searchable used car database to ensure consumers weren’t purchasing flood-damaged cars.
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