Feds Question Seaside Heights on Sandy Spending

Investigators are trying to verify the legitimacy of several claims

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    Crews work work to replace the Sandy destroyed boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J.

    Federal investigators have questioned officials in Seaside Heights, where a roller coaster famously plunged into the sea during Sandy, about bills the community submitted for cleanup and recovery.

    Borough officials told The Star-Ledger that the FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security had questioned them about requests for reimbursement from the Oct. 29 storm.

    Borough Administrator John Camera says investigators are trying to verify the legitimacy of several claims. They include payments to reimburse the owners of an Army-Navy store broken into by first responders who needed rescue supplies, as well as vehicles Seaside Heights leased to replace ones wrecked by flood waters.

    "We certainly aren't aware of any wrongdoing, and therefore everybody should be cooperating with them fully," Camera said. "The last thing we want is to have anything held up" in terms of subsequent Sandy aid, he told the newspaper.

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    Mayor Bill Akers told the newspaper he spoke with homeland security investigators and is fully cooperating.

    "This is about federal dollars and accountability," Akers said. "All towns will get a scrutiny."

    A spokeswoman for the FBI's Newark office declined to comment.

    In the case of the Army-Navy store, members of Seaside Heights' volunteer fire department broke into it and took clothing, boots, generators and other equipment without the owners' approval.

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    Camera said Akers told him about the incident the same day or the day after and instructed him to assure that the store's owners would be reimbursed. The borough paid the owners last $185,000 last month.

    Flooding in Seaside Heights destroyed the boardwalk on which part of the MTV "Jersey Shore" reality series was filmed, and the roller coaster that plunged off a boardwalk pier became one of the storm's iconic images. It was removed just before summer.