On Feb. 15, New York officials announced the arrest of four individuals accused of defrauding the Build It Back program, an initiative designed to help property owners rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. The alleged schemes resulted in the theft of $300,000 in disaster relief funds and the attempted theft of $1 million in property.

According to the Queens District Attorney’s Office, three of the defendants illegally received disaster relief funds after filing fraudulent repair applications to the program. A 67-year-old Brooklyn man received $125,802, a 73-year-old East Meadow man received $86,560 and a 54-year-old Syosset man received $66,371. All three are charged with second-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. If convicted, they face up to 19 years in prison.

The fourth defendant, a 58-year-old Rockaway Park woman, is accused of filing a false application in an attempt to steal the estate of a deceased woman. The scheme allegedly netted her $1 million. She is charged with first-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. She faces up to 36 years in prison. According to the New York City Department of Investigation, nearly $40 million in public funds have been saved through its scrutiny of Hurricane Sandy recovery programs.

Individuals convicted of fraud and other white collar crimes can face severe penalties, including lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. However, every defendant has the right to fight the allegations in court with the help of a criminal defense attorney. An attorney could look for evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s version of events, which could cause the case to fall apart. If the case is strong, legal counsel may attempt to negotiate a plea deal that allows the defendant to plead guilty to reduced charges.

Source: Qchron, “Four arrested in Build It Back program fraud,” Isabella Bruni, Feb. 16, 2017