An Oceanside contractor has been charged with trying to scam Sandy victims by doctoring an official Hempstead Town flier to mislead about 2,000 flood-ravaged homeowners and promote his business.
Mark Rauch, 63, was arrested yesterday by Nassau County District Attorney investigators and charged with felony counts of second-degree forgery and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Rauch, who faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted, was arraigned in First District Court in Hempstead, where he pleaded not guilty and was released.
"Unfortunately, there are . . . scam artists looking to capitalize on the devastation to make a quick buck," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.
Rauch allegedly sent deceptive mailings featuring the Hempstead Town seal to "portray himself as uniquely authorized to perform home inspections," Rice said in the statement. The mailings allegedly altered an actual building department document with town letterhead to promote the fee-based services of My Expediter Llc, based in Oceanside, incorporated in 2010.
The alleged forged mailer included Rauch's name, address, phone number and business email under the title "Your Expediter." It also offered information about building requirements, filing instructions for storm-battered Oceanside residents, and a listing of company services: permit application submission, an engineer or architect assessment, and "letter of workscope" for $499.
Rauch's attorney, Thomas R. Scanlon of Franklin Square, said yesterday his client, whose house was damaged by the storm, has received several harassment calls and death threats over the flier.
"The district attorney and town officials have already convicted Mr. Rauch of these unfounded charges using the media to act like the jury and executioner," Scanlon said. "He's a hardworking man trying to make a living. He wasn't trying to deceive anyone. He was trying to help people navigate the building department bureaucracy."
Last week, town supervisor Kate Murray requested the district attorney's office investigate the mailings, after building inspectors found out about the phony document on Nov. 24. Murray said in a statement that Rice's "efforts are helping to protect Sandy's victims from being victimized again."
The district attorney's investigation, conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, revealed Rauch spent about $275 to have the letters delivered to 1,903 Oceanside homes around Nov. 23.