4 Arrested in Alleged 'Build It Back' Fraud | NBC New York
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4 Arrested in Alleged 'Build It Back' Fraud

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    The City's troubled "Build it Back" Program has another setback after four people were arrested for allegedly defrauding the program. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

    (Published Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017)

    Four people were arrested Wednesday, accused of defrauding the city out of disaster relief funds by lying on their Build It Back applications after Sandy, authorities say. 

    George Bonitsis of Brooklyn, John Holl of East Meadow and John Phelan of Syosset are accused of falsely claiming their summer homes in Breezy Point, Queens, as their primary residences and getting the city to pay for their renovations.

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    They face charges of grand larceny and filing a false instrument. 

    A fourth person, Donata Rea of Rockaway Park, is accused of filing a false application with Build It Back in connection with a larger scheme to take money from the state of a woman who died in 2011. The woman has pleaded not guilty. 

    The arrests were the result of a Department of Investigation probe into the troubled city program. 

    "These are defendants who are profiteering off a true natural disaster that befell New York City," said DOI Commissioner Mark Peters. 

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    Phelan pleaded not guilty. His lawyer Eric Franz said authorities "did a horrible investigation, never asked him for his side of what happened." 

    "He was helping his mother, who was elderly and lived in the residence. And we'll prove that at trial," Franz said. 

    Meanwhile, people living year-round in the Sandy-ravaged community have had challenges getting their own funding from Build It Back to restore their homes, as the I-Team has reported.

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