QUEENS — A Kew Gardens Hills woman was busted for stealing more than $87,000 by posing as a Hurricane Sandy victim, staying in hotels meant for those affeceted by the massive storm for months and squandering cash from the Red Cross on a shopping spree, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday.
Caterina Curatolo, 48, who owns two houses in Kew Gardens Hills, preferred instead to live in hotels provided to Sandy evacuees for more than 269 days, at a cost of approximately $83,500, according to Schneiderman.
She was arrested on Monday at a Brooklyn Holiday Inn, where she lived in a room meant for Sandy victims, the AG's office said.
“We are (...) making sure that no one gets away with abusing programs intended to help real victims,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
Curatolo claimed that the damage to the roof made her house on 159th Street, between the Horace Harding Expressway and 59th Avenue, uninhabitable. But it turned out that the damage at her home occured at least a year before the storm, and that she had made a similar claim after Hurricane Irene in 2011, the Attorney General’s investigation showed.
Moreover, she also owns a second home next door, where undercover officers observed her picking up mail, according to Schneiderman.
In 2012 and 2013, Curatolo lived in three hotels meant for Sandy evacuees, including Quality Inn in Long Island City, LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in East Elmhurst and the Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn.
She also got other benefits, including an American Red Cross debit card allowing her to buy food for $100 a week. In total, from various agencies Curatolo received $3,590 to spend on food. Instead, she spent some of the money at stores, including Best Buy, Dressbarn, Marshalls and Fabco Shoes.
Curatolo also made a fraudulent auto insurance claim, alleging that her car was a total loss due to water damage caused by Sandy. But an insurance company inspection determined that the car showed no signs of water damage.
Curatolo was charged with grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records, among other charges.
If convicted, she faces up to 7 years in prison.
The suspect's lawyer did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.