A Middlesex County man “ruthlessly preyed” on Hurricane Sandy victims at temporary shelters by offering low-cost housing and cars, then taking off with $55,000 of their money, a state grand jury charged today.
David Scott Ruddy, 32, visited the shelters pretending to be a Red Cross worker of law enforcment officer there to help, the 10-count indictment returned in Trenton says.
Once he gained the victims’ trust, it says, Ruddy offered to rent or sell properties that he said he owned or controlled, as well as low-cost cars that he said he bought at police auctions.
He then collected from $1,000 to $9,000 from each, state authorities allege.
Sometimes using the aliases David Castro and David Gartman, Ruddy “ruthlessly preyed on people whose homes and cars were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy… while these victims were at their most desperate and vulnerable,” said Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman.
He “stole the money they needed to put their lives back together, leaving some of them without a permanent place to live to this day,” Hoffman said.
Overall, the indictment charges Ruddy with stealing from 13 victims — among them, seven who needed housing or a car due to the superstorm and five who needed these for other reasons.
The final victim needed furniture, which state authorities said he promised to order for her.
Working with Woodbridge police, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and other agencies, the state Division of Criminal Justice investigated Ruddy and presented the case to the grand jurors.
Ruddy has been held in the Middlesex County Jail since his arrest on Jan. 26. A detainer was also placed on him in connection with fugitive warrants out of Georgia.
State authorities have coordinated agencies that also include the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, the State Police and the county prosecutors to target Sandy-related fraud.
“We will aggressively pursue con artists to protect the people of New Jersey as they recover and rebuild,” DOJ Director Elie Honig said.
According to Hoffman:
- Deputy Attorney General Jillian B. Carpenter presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
- The investigation was led by Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department.
- Assistant Prosecutors Cindy Glaser, Christopher Schellhorn and Eric Snyder handled the case for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
- Detectives Kimberly Allen and Scott Stevens investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
- The American Red Cross provided valuable assistance through Chief Investigator Frank R. Favilla of the Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics.
- The Metuchen Police Department and the Dunellen Police Department also provided valuable assistance.
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