A Staten Island couple fleeced the feds out of $ 750,000 by saying Hurricane Sandy ravaged their dear home — when they actually had ditched the place months, or years, before the superstorm, authorities say.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors accused Nagwa Elsilimy and Ahmed Arafa of the costly misrepresentation in court papers unsealed Thursday.
The couple allegedly told the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies that their badly damaged Topping St. house was their primary residence at the time of Sandy’s destruction.
But court papers said the couple was living at a different Staten Island address on Wellington Court since at least March 2012 — some seven months before the storm struck New York and New Jersey.
In fact, the couple could have been living at the other spot as early as December 2009, the filing said.
The couple, both 59, face up to 30 years if convicted on the charges of major disaster relief fraud. They also face up to five years for allegedly making false statements to federal agencies.
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Elsilimy was released on $ 100,000 bond Thursday. Prosecutors noted at the arraignment Arafa was currently in Egypt.
Mark Peters, commissioner of the Department of Investigation — the agency reviewing the city’s rebuilding effort — said “while homeowners applied for aid to rehabilitate and rebuild, these defendants were capitalizing on the destruction, collecting benefits to which they were not entitled and exploiting federal funds to restore property they didn’t live in.”
When law enforcement built the case, the Department of Investigation sent “integrity monitors” to speak with Topping St. residents who said the house had been vacant for some time, possibly years.
The old house has been demolished and a new one has been built on the spot.
Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde said the alleged actions siphoned off money for “true victims and erodes public confidence in relief programs.”