Alleged Sandy scammer arrested

August 13, 2013 3:25:26 PM PDT
A woman from Queens who received thousands in relief benefits after Sandy is under arrest, and charged with fraud.

Prosecutors say she traded in on tragedy by staying in hotel rooms meant for Sandy evacuees for more than 250 days.

Call it a different kind of room service. Investigators from the Attorney General's Office arrested accused Sandy scam artist Catarina Curatola at the latest hotel where she's been staying thanks to taxpayer money.

Over a nine month period, she racked up hotel bills in Brooklyn and Queens totaling more than $83,000, falsely claiming she'd been made homeless by the superstorm.

"She owns two homes that were a mile and a half from the nearest flood zone. She scammed the system in multiple ways for months," New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

The Attorney General says in fact, Curatola's home in Fresh Meadows was not made uninhabitable by Sandy.

That hole in the roof was there before the storm. She made a claim for it after Hurricane Irene in 2011. Plus, she owns another family home next door.

Eyewitness News has now learned that Curatola was paid $7,700 for the "Irene" claim.

Neighbors across the street told Eyewitness News Curatola hasn't kept up her home for years. But her alleged scam didn't stop with hotels. The Attorney General says Curatola filed an auto insurance claim for a Jeep she claimed was a total Sandy loss, and there's more.

"She got debit cards to buy food that she used at places to buy dresses and shoes," Schneiderman said.

Neighbors were outraged.

"That's very wrong, because there are other people who are affected who could use the shelter and the money," said Vincent Fung, a neighbor.