This fraudster failed to weather the storm.
A Long Island contractor who allegedly pocketed $2.5 million from Hurricane Sandy victims and used the money to fund his own personal expenses — including the purchase of a Lamborghini, Porsche and Jaguar — was charged in a 20-count indictment Thursday.
Alexander Almaraz, 55, who owns Design Concepts Group LLC in Freeport, was arraigned in a federal court on charges of wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and attempted wire fraud.
Prosecutors said that Almaraz took advantage of at least 20 clients after Superstorm Sandy struck the New York metropolitan area in October 2012.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the defendant took advantage of distressed homeowners who were desperate to rebuild their homes and their lives,” said Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Almaraz allegedly entered into contracts — as both the owner of Design Concepts Group and the owner of another company — with frenzied homeowners seeking to rebuild.
The homeowners he agreed to help were receiving money from the state’s New York Rising program in order to help rebuild their hurricane-ravaged homes.
As part of his scheme, Almaraz convinced victims to lift their homes and set them down on a temporary support structure to allow for demolition to replace damaged foundations. Between October 2015 and June 2019, he agreed to lift the homes of at least 20 customers who received relief funding and paid him approximately $2.5 million in total.
He also persuaded many of the homeowners to move out, and instead pay him rent to live elsewhere. With the homeowners out of the way, he went on to neglect the construction projects.
Prosecutors say the fraudster took the money and used it to pay for his own personal expenses, including credit card bills, land purchased in Kansas City, Missouri, and several luxury cars, including a Lamborghini, a Porsche and a Jaguar.
“Dozens of New Yorkers — in their hour of need — were left homeless, and with their homes in ruin, due to the alleged actions of Alexander Almaraz,” Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said.
“For nearly four years, this contractor allegedly promised families that he’d repair their homes, but instead he used disaster relief money to buy exotic sports cars and property in another state.”
If convicted, Almaraz faces up to 30 years in prison on each count of the indictment.