BY JON CRONIN
A Howard Beach couple has been charged with grand larceny and the two face up to seven years in jail after allegedly filing fraudulent Federal Emergency Management Agency claims in the amount of $25,000, claiming that their Howard Beach residence was their primary home.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown stated that Margaret Poje, 39, allegedly falsely claimed in a FEMA document that her primary residence is 157-32 89th St. in Howard Beach. That residence is a second home that she owns with her brother. FEMA only provides reimbursements to those whose primary residence was damaged in the storm.
Both Margaret Poje and her husband Christopher, 43, a FDNY firefighter, live on 86th Street in Howard Beach and share the grand larceny charge. Margaret Poje is additionally charged with second-degree forgery, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
A former tenant at their 86th Street home stated that both Margaret and Christopher shared the 86th Street home before and after the day Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.
The wife claimed that as a result of the damage to her home she had to lease an apartment on West 82nd Street in Manhattan. She allegedly submitted a lease agreement and an invoice for $3,800 from a heating and cooling company for repairs to the 89th Street home. She was reimbursed by FEMA $19, 556. The owner of the heating and cooling company said that they did not do work on the 89th Street home, but worked on their 86th Street home.
Christopher Poje, allegedly submitted his own reimbursement claim on Nov. 11, 2012, stating that he sought temporary housing on East 37th Street in Manhattan and received $6,526 in benefits from FEMA.
Brown stated, “The defendants are alleged to having tried to take advantage of a system established to help people who face real crises following a natural disaster. The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012, devastated many residents of Queens County and beyond, resulting in many homes being damaged and in some cases destroyed. Those storm victims deservedly needed assistance in rebuilding their homes and their lives. The two defendants in this case are alleged to have lied, fabricated documents and receipts to dupe FEMA into giving them funds to feed their greed.”
Mark Peters, commissioner of the NYC Department of Investigation, added, “As charged, these two defendants tried to turn a disaster into personal profit, stealing pubic funds that could have gone to those New Yorkers who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy. That one of the defendants is a City firefighter now charged with bilking the public only underscores the troubling nature of this investigation.”
Reach Editor Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JonathanSCronin.