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Press Release

Camden County, New Jersey, Woman Admits Defrauding FEMA Relating To Major Disasters

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Camden County, New Jersey, woman today admitted her role in defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Super Storm Sandy, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Andrea Knoerzer 53, of Voorhees, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court to an information charging her with one count of disaster benefits fraud.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

When a natural disaster or federal emergency occurs in the United States, federal agencies, such as FEMA, provide relief and assistance to affected individuals and entities.  FEMA provides financial assistance by, among other things, helping affected individuals repair their property.

Due to FEMA’s vast size and the typically large number of victims resulting from a disaster, FEMA frequently has been targeted in disaster fraud schemes by individuals or groups seeking money to which they were not entitled. These individuals accomplished their schemes by submitting fraudulent applications to FEMA for among other things, repairs and rental assistance.

In October 2012, the various counties of southern New Jersey, including Cape May County, suffered significant damage due to wind, rain, and flooding as a result of Hurricane Sandy. On Oct. 30, 2012, President Obama signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the State of New Jersey pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistant Act, enabling eligible individuals to seek financial assistance from FEMA when displaced by the storms.

Knoerzer admitted that she applied for FEMA benefits on Nov. 1, 2012. She claimed that her house in Ocean City was her primary residence, that the storm damaged it, and that it was unfit for occupancy.  She also claimed that the storm damaged her 2001 Volvo station wagon. In reality, Knoerzer’s primary residence was in Voorhees and her Volvo was not in Ocean City.  After FEMA awarded her temporary rental assistance, Knoerzer admitted that she submitted fraudulent documents to FEMA to secure continued disaster assistance through FEMA’s rental assistance program.  Knoerzer received $13,373 from FEMA’s emergency rental assistance funds and $7,500 for transportation assistance to which she was not entitled.

The charge to which Knoerzer pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for June 23, 2016.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory Null, for investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden in the criminal case.

Defense counsel: A. Charles Peruto Esq., Philadelphia

Updated June 14, 2016

Press Release Number: 16-078