TRENTON – A con artist from Metuchen pleaded guilty today to preying on victims of Superstorm Sandy, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced. He promised victims low-cost housing or cars and instead stole their money, defrauding them and others of approximately $55,000.
David Scott Ruddy, 33, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Paone in Middlesex County. Under the plea agreement, Ruddy faces a sentence of three to five years in state prison. He must execute a consent judgment to pay restitution to all of his victims. Deputy Attorney General Jillian B. Carpenter prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Paone scheduled sentencing for Ruddy for Nov. 18.
An investigation by the Woodbridge Police Department, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Division of Criminal Justice revealed that Ruddy visited temporary shelters in Middlesex County after Superstorm Sandy, impersonating a Red Cross worker or law enforcement officer who was there to help. At times he claimed to work for the Attorney General’s Office. Once he gained the trust of Sandy victims, he offered to rent or sell them low-cost apartments, condos or houses that he claimed to own or control. He also offered low-cost cars he said he bought at police auctions. Ruddy fraudulently collected payments from the victims but did not deliver the promised housing or cars. In addition to the Sandy victims, Ruddy also targeted others with the same type of scam.
Ruddy stole a total of approximately $55,000 from 13 victims, including seven people who were in need of housing or a car due to Sandy, and five who needed housing or a car for other reasons. The final victim needed furniture, which he falsely promised to order for her. He stole amounts from the victims that ranged from about $1,000 to $9,000. He met six of the victims at shelters after Sandy, and met three more victims through people he met at shelters. He met the remaining four victims in other ways.
“While so many New Jerseyans were selflessly aiding victims after Superstorm Sandy, Ruddy stole the very money that some people needed to get back on their feet,” said Hoffman. “Posing as a rescue worker to prey on homeless disaster victims is about as low as you can go. I am gratified that we were able to return the favor, so to speak, by arranging a home for Ruddy in prison.”
“It is a sad reality that disasters bring out profiteers and con artists who want to enrich themselves by targeting those who are vulnerable,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our multi-agency Sandy fraud task force is continuing to investigate such criminals in order to protect New Jerseyans as they rebuild their lives and our state.”
The shelters where Ruddy allegedly sought victims included a shelter at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and a shelter in Old Bridge. Ruddy allegedly kept in contact with some of his victims after they left the shelters so that he could approach them later with fraudulent offers. He rented a second-floor office above a law firm on Rahway Avenue in Woodbridge, where he brought victims to sign bogus contracts for housing or vehicle purchases.
Ruddy, who sometimes uses the aliases David Castro and David Gartman, has been held in the Middlesex County Jail since his arrest on Jan. 26. He is being held on a detainer in connection with fugitive warrants issued in connection with criminal charges he faces in Georgia.
The investigation was led by Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department. Assistant Prosecutors Cindy Glaser, Christopher Schellhorn and Eric Snyder handled the case for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. Deputy Attorney General Carpenter and Detectives Kimberly Allen and Scott Stevens investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The American Red Cross provided valuable assistance through Chief Investigator Frank R. Favilla of the Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics. The Metuchen Police Department and the Dunellen Police Department also provided valuable assistance.
Ruddy also pleaded guilty today to a third-degree charge of theft by deception filed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office charged Ruddy in connection with four other victims he defrauded prior to Sandy. One man lent Ruddy a car that he never returned; a second man loaned him $25,000 that he failed to repay; and two other victims paid him a total of $6,800 because he falsely claimed that he was a bail bond agent who would bail their children out of jail. Under his plea agreement with the prosecutor’s office, Ruddy must pay full restitution to those victims. The prison sentences for the charges filed by the Attorney General’s Office and the county will run concurrently.
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