Central Islip (WALK) -As Long Island marked the one-year anniversary of superstorm Sandy yesterday, two local women were charged with swiping relief funds by pretending to be victims.
Prosecutors say Jenna Sowinski of Merrick and Tselane Gibbs of Valley Stream claimed their apartments were badly damaged by the storm, when in fact any damage was minor. They allegedly collected more than $18,000 each in funds that were supposed to assist victims in relocating.
The two suspects were arraigned yesterday in federal court in Central Islip.
Sowinski, 37, allegedly forged documents saying that the owner of her apartment deemed it uninhabitable. Gibbs, 31, is charged with falsely claiming that she was forced to move as well, and forging a phony lease and rent payments for a new home in Brooklyn, when in fact she never moved out of the Valley Stream apartment.
A third suspect was arraigned on similar charges at federal District Court in Brooklyn. Joseph McClam of Raleigh, North Carolina, who owns a house in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, is accused of falsely claiming that the building in Brooklyn was his primary home. In fact, prosecutors say he lives in North Carolina and the Brooklyn house had been uninhabitable since 2010, when it was damaged in a fire.