TRENTON, N.J. – A Pennsylvania man working at a Superstorm Sandy housing recovery center in New Jersey solicited thousands of dollars in bribes and fictitious fees from storm victims by telling them he could expedite and/or increase the amount of money they received, authorities announced Monday.
The New Jersey Attorney General's Office says Ronald Golden, 43, of Norristown was charged with bribery in official and political matters, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception and identity theft in an indictment handed up Friday by a state grand jury. It was made public Monday.
Golden worked at a state-operated housing recovery center in Newark. He was hired in June 2013 after he allegedly used his father's date of birth and Social Security number to circumvent a background check, authorities said. He was fired in October 2014 for reasons unrelated to the charges contained in the indictment, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Golden allegedly solicited and received $5,770 overall in bribes and fraudulent fees from two victims and tried to solicit an additional $3,000 bribe from another victim. But authorities say Golden had no authority to approve grants, increase them or expedite the application process.
In one case, Golden falsely claimed he was a lawyer and obtained a $200 "retainer fee" from a woman he offered to represent in a lawsuit against her insurance company, authorities said. Golden allegedly received most of the bribes and fees in cash, but on two occasions received either a check or prepaid debit cards.
It wasn't known Monday if Golden has retained an attorney. A telephone number for him could not be located.
More than 220 people overall have been charged with Sandy-related fraud in New Jersey, including charges brought by the Attorney General's Office, its federal and state partners and the four county prosecutors taking part in the state's Sandy Fraud Task Force. Roughly half of these cases involve "primary residence fraud," where defendants applied for disaster relief funds for vacation rental or secondary homes by falsely claiming those homes were their primary residences when the storm hit in October 2012.