The owner of a Freeport company who allegedly took $2.5 million from the owners of Superstorm Sandy-damaged homes and spent it on luxury cars, real estate and personal expenses was named in a 20-count indictment announced by federal and Nassau County officials on Wednesday.
Alexander Almaraz, 55, a former Freeport resident, is scheduled for arraignment Thursday in federal court in Central Islip on charges of wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and attempted wire fraud. Almaraz, the owner of Design Concepts Group LLC of Freeport, now lives in Irvine, California.
“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, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “The criminal charges announced today demonstrate that despite the passage of time, this Office and our law enforcement partners will prosecute fraudsters who prey on disaster victims and use government relief programs as a piggy bank to enrich themselves.”
Almaraz’s attorney, Evan Sugar of the Federal Defenders, did not immediately return a call for comment.
The indictment accused Almaraz of entering into contracts – as the owner of DCG or fraudulently posing as the owner of a different company – with people who qualified to receive funds from the state’s New York Rising program, established by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to help homeowners rebuild Sandy-slammed homes.
Almaraz agreed to lift the homes of at least 20 customers and set them down on a temporary support structure to allow demolition of the storm-damaged foundations, prosecutors said. The contracts called for new foundations to be rebuilt, homes to be lowered, and appliances to be reconnected.
Almaraz allegedly persuaded many of the homeowners to move and pay him rent to live elsewhere, according to prosecutors, who said he neglected their projects and caused greater loss. Instead of performing the agreed-upon work, Almaraz spent the money on credit card bills, land in Kansas City, Missouri, a Lamborghini, a Porsche and a Jaguar.
If convicted, Almaraz faces up to 30 years in prison on each count of the indictment.
“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.”