TOTTENVILLE — A Staten Island contractor was arrested for pocketing insurance checks meant to pay for repairs to fire-damaged homes — just a day after he admitted to defrauding Hurricane Sandy victims.
Frank Lewery, 52, was arrested Tuesday after he cashed several checks from insurance companies. They were meant for repairs to homes in Staten Island and Pennsylvania, but he hadn't done the work, prosecutors said.
Lewery even pocketed more than $300,000 to fix the home of a Tottenville man who lost his wife in a 2009 fire, court papers said.
A day earlier, Lewery had pleaded guilty in New Jersey to stealing nearly $31,000 in deposit checks to complete work on Sandy-damaged homes in the wealthy seaside community Rumson, N.J. — even though he wasn't a licensed contractor in the state.
Now, Lewery is accused of forging signatures to cash insurance settlement checks following a 2009 house fire on Staten Island and a 2010 fire in Pennsylvania, prosecutors said. As part of the scheme, he gave kickbacks of more than $80,000 to public adjuster John Carino and his corporation for recommending Lewery to victims, a law enforcement source said.
One victim was Thomas Brown, whose 62-year-old wife Rosemary died in a 2009 Craig Avenue fire, court papers said. Lewery cashed the insurance check at the Chase Bank on Page Avenue and took the money for his own personal use, prosecutors said.
In 2011, Lewery took $50,000 to repair a Targee Street home damaged by a fire, but cashed the check in Brooklyn and never repaired the house, court papers said.
Lewery later told the victim's son that he needed the money because he had financial problems and used it to refinance his home, court papers said.
In only one of the four instances that Lewery cashed forged checks did he actually complete the work, the source said.
Lewery was charged with several counts of insurance fraud, grand larceny, identity theft and scheming to defraud at his arraignment on Wednesday, prosecutors said.
His bail was set at $50,000 and he's due back in court on April 23. Prosecutors in New Jersey also recommended that Lewery serve at least three years in a state prison for scamming Sandy victims and ordered him to pay $30,740 in restitution.
Carino was expected to turn himself in and be arraigned on similar charges to Lewery, prosecutors said.