Valley Stream Man Stole FEMA Sandy Funds, Feds Say

A Valley Stream man was arrested Thursday for allegedly lying to FEMA in order to get thousands of dollars in Superstorm Sandy-related disaster relief funds for a storm-damaged house in East Rockaway that he claimed to be living in, federal investigators said.

Edward Valentin was among four people charged for allegedly submitting false and fraudulent applications to obtain Sandy funds, officials said. He was released on $30,000 bail after his arraignment.

According to a complaint, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved on Nov. 19, 2012 $18,575 for two disaster assistance applications Valentin filed for a Hudson Street home in East Rockaway on Oct. 3, 2012—two days after the massive storm struck—and on Nov. 15, 2012.

“The Hudson Street residence was described as an owned property and Valentin’s primary residence,” investigators said in the complaint, despite Valentin’s driver’s license listing his current address as a home in Valley Stream. The application also listed Valentin as the sole occupant of the East Rockaway residence, officials said.

But federal agents later learned that the tenant living in the Hudson Street home filed a complaint with the disaster fraud hotline after her belongings were damaged during Sandy. The woman told investigators that Valentin “was going to file a claim for payment with FEMA and falsely represent” that he lived with her, according to the complaint.

The tenant also received a check from Valentin three days before he filed for relief that listed his address as the Valley Stream residence, the complaint states. Agents interviewed two neighbors who confirmed that the tenant lived alone, investigators said.

Authorities also arrested Staten Island residents Diana Shkolnik, Robert Gesuele and Darnell Ellis. Officials said more than $70,000 was allegedly stolen from disaster relief funds intended for Sandy victims.

“At a time when individuals were displaced from their primary residences and businesses due to the affects of Hurricane Sandy, the defendants saw an opportunity to make money,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos. “They submitted false claims to FEMA and lined their pockets with money intended to help those who legally qualified for assistance under the IHP (Household Assistance Program).”