'Benefits’ included free stays at a Brooklyn hotel, stole tens of thousands
From NYS Attorney General's Office
New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced on Tuesday the arrest of Caterina M. Curatolo, who allegedly obtained more than $87,000 in benefits by falsely claiming to have been a victim of Superstorm Sandy.
An extensive investigation by the Attorney General’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit (“AIFU”) revealed that Curatolo engaged in an elaborate scheme to defraud city and federal relief agencies, a private insurance company and charitable organizations by representing herself as a Sandy evacuee.
After Hurricane Sandy descended upon New York City and surrounding areas on Oct. 29, 2012, causing enormous damage and displacing thousands of New York City residents, the city contracted with hotels to provide interim housing for those evacuees by creating the New York City Hotel and Interim Placement Program ("Hotel Program").
At the same time, the New York City Mayor's Office established the Mayor's Office of Housing Recovery Operations ("HRO") to help administer housing accommodations to Sandy evacuees. All who were placed in the hotel program were assigned case managers and given housing, medical and financial resources.
According to the Attorney General's felony complaint, filed in Queens County Criminal Court, Curatolo falsely represented herself as a Sandy evacuee in order to obtain free hotel rooms and other benefits.
She was provided with free accommodations at three hotels in Queens and Brooklyn. Between Nov. 17, 2012 and Dec. 20, 2012, she was placed in the Quality Inn at 30-03 40th Ave., Long Island City, Queens. Between Dec. 1, 2012 and Feb. 21, 2013, she was placed in the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel at 104-04 Ditmars Blvd., East Elmhurst, Queens. Beginning on Feb. 20, 2013, Ms. Curatolo was placed in the Holiday Inn Express located at 625 Union St., Gowanus, Brooklyn, where she was still residing at the time of her arrest by AIFU investigators.
All in all, according to the Attorney General’s Office, Curatolo was provided housing as a Sandy evacuee for more than 269 days at a cost of approximately $83,500.
In addition to free lodging, based on her representations as a Sandy evacuee, Curatolo was given given a total of $3,590 to spend on food. Instead, she spent some of the money at Best Buy, Dressbarn, Marshalls, Fabco Shoes, Eric Shoes, Optical Boutique and Exclusive Eyes, according to the indictment.