|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that an Ocean County couple has been arrested for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 20 victims who hired the couple’s home improvement companies to repair or rebuild their homes after Superstorm Sandy. The victims paid the couple 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.
Jeffrey Colmyer, 41, and Tiffany Cimino, 43, who live together in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., were arrested yesterday by detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice on a range of charges, including theft, money laundering, and misconduct by a corporate official, all in the second degree, and failure to pay taxes and tax fraud, both third-degree offenses. They were lodged in the Ocean County Jail with bail for each set at $300,000. 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 this matter 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, among other things. The criminal charges stem from 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, 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 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 allegedly 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 (HUD). 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 emergency relief funds, or other sources.
“Colmyer and Cimino heartlessly preyed on homeowners who were devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” said Attorney General 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 our state and federal law enforcement partners, has charged over 70 defendants with various types of fraud related to Superstorm Sandy,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This case is the most egregious to date in terms of the dollars involved and harm inflicted on innocent victims.”
“Homeowners desperate to rebuild their homes and get on with their lives in the wake of this monstrous storm put their money and their trust in these defendants, only to watch these alleged swindlers walk away with the cash, leaving them with little or nothing to show for it,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The defendants callously dealt another staggering blow to Sandy victims who had already suffered tremendous losses.”
“Unfortunately, natural disasters can attract swindlers who target people when they are at a vulnerable point in their lives,” said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles A. Richman. “For this reason, the State has committed itself from day one to rooting out fraud, theft and other illegal conduct as we rebuild from Sandy. Today’s announcement demonstrates this commitment and the seriousness with which we pursue con artists who bilk Sandy survivors for their own personal gain.”
The case is being handled for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General John A. Nicodemo, Detective Michael Arduini, Detective Jordan Thompson and Analyst Alison Callery, under the supervision of Lt. David Nolan, Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and Bureau Chief Michael A. Monahan. They are working with Special Agents from the HUD Office of Inspector General. Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller and Civil Investigator Debra Maiorano of the state’s forfeiture unit also are assisting.
Attorney General 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 Twp. Police Department for their valuable assistance in the investigation. Special Agent Kyle Mullane investigated for the Division of Taxation.
Attorney General Porrino 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 is being handled by Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law.
The following criminal charges were filed against Colmyer and Cimino by complaint-warrant:
- Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property (2nd degree),
- Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity (Money Laundering) (2nd degree),
- Misconduct by a Corporate Official (2nd degree),
- Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity (Structuring) (3rd degree),
- Tampering with Public Records (3rd degree),
- Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree) (Tax years 2013 and 2014),
- Failure to File a Tax Return (3rd degree) (Tax year 2015), and
- Failure to Pay Tax (3rd degree) (Tax years 2013 through 2015).
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.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The money laundering and structuring charges carry sentences consecutive to the sentence for the theft charge, and carry potential additional penalties of $250,000 and $75,000, respectively. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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