N.J. motel owner gets three years for $81K Hurricane Sandy scam

Sandipkumar Patel received more than $81,000 from FEMA based on claims he had provided temporary shelter to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Sandipkumar Patel received more than $81,000 from FEMA based on claims he had provided temporary shelter to victims of Hurricane Sandy. (NJ Attorney General’s Office)

NEW JERSEY — A New Jersey motel owner was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for stealing disaster relief funds following Hurricane Sandy.

Sandipkumar Patel, 44, received more than $81,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency based on claims he had provided temporary shelter to victims of the superstorm. Patel pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception. He has paid full restitution.

“This assistance program enabled motel owners to shelter Sandy victims while still collecting a reasonable room rate, but Patel was more interested in stealing relief funds than helping victims,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino.

The motel owner is one of more than 70 people charged with defrauding Sandy relief programs. Patel, who received $133.28 per day for each room in his motel occupied by victims of the storm, fraudulently billed FEMA for people who never stayed in his motel.

Eight of the people he billed FEMA for never stayed in his motel at all. An additional three people stayed for shorter periods than were billed.

“Our prosecutions should deter this conduct in future disasters, so that funding is preserved for those who need it most and relief administrators can focus on recovery, not policing fraud,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.