Alexander Almaraz, the owner of Design Concepts Group LLC (DCG) in Freeport, New York, has been charged in a 20-count indictment with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and attempted wire fraud in connection with a scheme to induce individuals to hire the defendant and pay DCG to lift their Hurricane Sandy-damaged homes. Almaraz is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow afternoon in federal court in Central Islip before United States Magistrate Judge Lee G. Dunst.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Anne T. Donnelly, Nassau County District Attorney, announced the arrest and charges.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the defendant took advantage of distressed homeowners who were desperate to rebuild their homes and their lives,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “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.”
Mr. Peace also thanked New York Rising (NYR) within the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery for their assistance with the investigation.
“As our fellow community members attempted to restore their lives following the cataclysmic destruction of Hurricane Sandy, the defendant exploited the opportunity to operate a years’ long scheme. As alleged, rather than complete the promised contract, Almaraz stole his victims’ money to pay for his lavish personal expenses. The FBI will continue to investigate fraud and abuse of government relief programs and hold the scammers accountable for their schemes,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
District Attorney Donnelly said: “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. 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. I thank our partners at the US. Attorney’s Office and the FBI for their diligent pursuit of this defendant, who has left a trail of destruction in his wake.”
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck New York and New Jersey, causing catastrophic damage to low-lying and coastal areas, including many neighborhoods in the Eastern District of New York. Individuals whose homes were damaged were eligible to receive funding from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery through the NYR program.
As alleged in the indictment, Almaraz entered into contracts—alternatively as the owner of DCG and fraudulently posing as the owner of a different company—with homeowners who qualified to receive funds from NYR. As part of these contracts, Almaraz agreed to lift the victims’ homes and set them down on a temporary support structure, which allowed demolition of the foundation, and then install a new foundation, lower the home, and reconnect appliances. Between October 2015 and June 2019, Almaraz agreed to lift the homes of at least 20 customers that had received NYR funding and who collectively paid him approximately $2.5 million. Almaraz convinced many of these homeowners to move out of their homes and pay him rent to live elsewhere, all the while neglecting their projects and causing greater loss. Additionally, instead of performing the agreed-upon work, Almaraz used the homeowners’ monies to pay for personal expenses, including credit card bills, land purchased in Kansas City, Missouri, and luxury automobiles, including a Lamborghini, a Porsche and a Jaguar. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum term of 30 years’ incarceration on each count in the indictment.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and Almaraz is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher Caffarone and Megan E. Farrell are in charge of the prosecution.
Irvine, California – formerly of Freeport, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-CR-17 (JMA)
originally published at HUMAN RIGHTS - USA DAILY NEWS 24