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East Rockaway couple files latest suit alleging fraudulent Sandy engineering reports

Officials from the New York attorney general's office

Officials from the New York attorney general's office remove evidence boxes from GEB HiRise in Uniondale on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

An East Rockaway couple Friday filed the latest in a series of federal class-action lawsuits accusing companies of fabricating documents to defraud superstorm Sandy victims of insurance settlements.

The 27-page complaint says New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Co. conspired with a Uniondale engineering firm and others to alter property damage reports to avoid paying flood insurance claims.

The lawsuit, filed in Central Islip, marks the fourth class-action suit alleging a broad conspiracy to defraud homeowners after the 2012 storm.

New York Central, of Edmeston, N.Y., and the engineering firm, GEB HiRise, did not respond to requests for comment. HiRise, already under criminal investigation in connection with fraud allegations, has previously denied wrongdoing.

The allegations that companies defrauded homeowners while processing claims for the government-run National Flood Insurance Program began surfacing last year. They have led to the ongoing criminal probe by the New York State attorney general's office.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the flood insurance program, has promised reforms. After months of deadlock FEMA is now negotiating to settle the roughly 1,800 lawsuits pending over disputed claims in New York and New Jersey.

Yesterday's class action was filed by John and Gail Mero, whose home was destroyed in the storm and eventually demolished.

Five weeks after the flood New York Central asked HiRise to send an engineer to inspect the house. That engineer, Andrew Braum, concluded the damage stemmed largely from surging waters, according to the suit.

Yet, before forwarding the report to New York Central, a department manager at HiRise, Matthew Pappalardo, who is not an engineer, rewrote Braum's conclusion, blaming the damage on shifting soil, according to the suit.

Consequently, much of the Meros' claim was denied. They received $90,000 for the $250,000 policy.

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