Long Island Contractors Charged With Millions Of Dollars In Hurricane Sandy Fraud | USAO-EDNY

Alexander Almaraz, the owner of Design Concepts Group LLC (DCG) in Freeport, New York, was charged on a 20-count indictment with conspiracy to wire fraud, wire fraud and attempted wire fraud in connection with a plan to induce people to hire the Defendants and paying DCG to lift their homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Almaraz is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Central Islip tomorrow afternoon before US Judge Lee G. Dunst.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Anne T. Donnelly, Nassau County Attorney, announced the arrest and indictment.

“After Hurricane Sandy, the defendant took advantage of distressed homeowners who were desperate to rebuild their homes and lives,” prosecutors Peace said. “The criminal charges announced today show that despite the passage of time, this office and our law enforcement partners will prosecute fraudsters who prey on disaster victims and use government aid programs as a piggy bank to enrich themselves.”

Mr. Peace also thanked New York Rising (NYR) at the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery for their assistance with the investigation.

“As our fellow citizens attempted to restore their lives after the catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, the defendant took the opportunity to implement a year-long program. Instead of completing the promised contract, Almaraz allegedly stole his victims’ money to pay for his lavish personal expenses. The FBI will continue to investigate fraud and abuse of government assistance programs and will hold the fraudsters accountable for their activities,” said Driscoll, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge.

District Attorney Donnelly said: “Dozens of New Yorkers — in their hour of need — have been left homeless and their homes in shambles as a result of the alleged actions of Alexander Almaraz. For nearly four years, this contractor reportedly promised families he would fix their homes, but instead used disaster relief funds to buy exotic sports cars and real estate in another state. I thank our partners in the USA. Prosecutors and the FBI for their diligent pursuit of this defendant who left a trail of devastation.”

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck New York and New Jersey, causing catastrophic damage to low-lying and coastal areas, including many neighborhoods in the Eastern District of New York. Individuals whose homes were damaged were eligible for funding from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery through the NYR program.

As alleged in the indictment, Almaraz — alternatively owning DCG and fraudulently posing as the owner of another company — entered into contracts with homeowners who were eligible to receive funds from NYR. As part of those contracts, Almaraz agreed to raise the victims’ homes and set them down on a temporary support structure that allowed the foundation to be demolished, and then install a new foundation, lower the home, and reconnect the equipment. Between October 2015 and June 2019, Almaraz agreed to lift the homes of at least 20 clients who had received NYR funds, collectively paying him about $2.5 million. Almaraz persuaded many of these homeowners to move out of their homes and pay him rent to live elsewhere, while at the same time he neglected their projects and caused greater losses. Rather than carry out the agreed-upon work, Almaraz used the homeowners’ funds to pay for personal expenses, including credit card bills, property purchased in Kansas City, Missouri, and luxury automobiles, including a Lamborghini, a Porsche, and a Jaguar. If convicted, the accused faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on each count.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and Almaraz is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being handled by the Bureau’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher Caffarone and Megan E. Farrell are serving the prosecution.

The defender:

Age: 55
Irvine, California – formerly Freeport, New York

EDNY File No. 23-CR-17 (JMA)