YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a con artist from Metuchen was sentenced to five years in state prison today for preying on victims of Superstorm Sandy. He promised victims low-cost housing or cars and instead stole their money, defrauding them and others of approximately $55,000.
David Scott Ruddy, 33, of Metuchen, was also ordered to pay restitution to all of his victims.
Ruddy last month admitted stealing the money from 13 victims, including seven people who were in need of housing or a car due to Sandy, and five who needed housing or a car for other reasons.
The final victim needed furniture, which he falsely promised to order for her.
Authorities said that Ruddy met six of the victims at shelters after Sandy and met three more victims through people he met at shelters. He met the remaining four victims in other ways, they said.
His actions in defrauding homeless storm victims “were utterly despicable,” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said following today’s sentencing.
Ruddy, who’s been behind bars since his arrest in January, “gained the trust of his victims by posing as a rescue worker, only to steal their money and leave them in an even more desperate state,” Hoffman added.
“When disasters strike, the best rush in to help,” state Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said. “Unfortunately, the worst rush in too – to help themselves.”
Ruddy also pleaded guilty on Oct. 8 to a third-degree charge of theft by deception filed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in connection with four additonal victims.
One man loaned Ruddy a car that he never returned; a second man gave him $25,000 that he failed to repay; and two other victims paid him a total of $6,800 because he falsely claimed that he was a bail bondsman who would get their children out of jail.
Ruddy was sentenced to five years in prison on that charge, as well, with the two sentences to run concurrently. He also must pay full restitution to those victims.
Once he’s released, Ruddy will be turned over to authorities in Georgia, who’ve issued fugitive warrants for him, Hoffman said.
Ruddy visited shelters pretending to be a Red Cross worker or law enforcement officer there to help, according to a a 10-count indictment returned in Trenton in July.
Once he gained the victims’ trust, it says, Ruddy offered to rent or sell properties that he said he owned or controlled, as well as low-cost cars that he said he bought at police auctions.
He then collected from $1,000 to $9,000 from each.
Sometimes using the aliases David Castro and David Gartman, Ruddy “ruthlessly preyed on people whose homes and cars were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy… while these victims were at their most desperate and vulnerable,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said Ruddy rented a second-floor office above a law firm on Rahway Avenue in Woodbridge, where he brought victims to sign bogus contracts for housing or vehicle purchases.
According to Hoffman:
Deputy Attorney General Jillian B. Carpenter presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
The investigation was led by Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department.
Assistant Prosecutors Cindy Glaser, Christopher Schellhorn and Eric Snyder handled the case for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Detectives Kimberly Allen and Scott Stevens investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
The American Red Cross provided valuable assistance through Chief Investigator Frank R. Favilla of the Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics.
The Metuchen Police Department and the Dunellen Police Department also provided valuable assistance.
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