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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Friday, January 12, 2018

Two Men Charged With Fraud In Connection With Hurricane Sandy Cleanup

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), Michael C. Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Regional Office of the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (“DOL-OIG”), Charles Brandeis, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, New York Field Office (“DSS”), and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging RICHARD GRIFFIN and FRANK GILLETTE with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with New York City’s Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts.


The defendants were taken into federal custody this morning and will be presented before United States Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses later today.  The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Lorna G. Schofield. 


As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:


Hurricane Sandy


From in or about October 2012 through in or about November 2012, the East Coast of the United States was hit by Hurricane Sandy, the second-largest Atlantic storm in recorded history at that time.  The effects of Hurricane Sandy were felt in approximately 24 states, displacing tens of thousands of people from their homes, leaving more than eight million people without power, causing tens of billions of dollars in damage, and killing at least 160 people. 


The Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut was hit particularly hard, with record storm surges that devastated the coastal areas of the region and left lower Manhattan underwater and without power.


Cleanup Efforts


On or about October 30, 2012, President Obama declared Hurricane Sandy a major disaster in New York, which made federal funding available to New York State and local governments for, among other things, debris removal and cleanup. 


In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Department of Sanitation (“DSNY”) contracted with private vendors (the “Vendors”) to remove over 280,000 cubic yards of debris left on the roadways and rights-of-way throughout the five boroughs of New York City.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursed DSNY for 90% of the cost of the debris removal performed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


In order to monitor the work performed during the cleanup effort, DSNY required the Vendors to submit certain paperwork (“Time Certificates”) that tracked the particular machines used and the date and time of usage.  At the end of the project, DSNY paid the Vendors based on the information contained in the Time Certificates.


The Scheme


At all times relevant to the Indictment, RICHARD GRIFFIN and FRANK GILLETTE, the defendants, owned and operated subcontractors that were hired to assist a Vendor in Hurricane Sandy debris removal efforts (“Subcontractor-1” and “Subcontractor-2,” respectively). GRIFFIN and GILLETTE submitted and caused to be submitted fraudulent Time Certificates (“Fraudulent Time Certificates”) to DSNY, which purported to show debris removal that Subcontractor-1 and Subcontractor-2 performed during the Hurricane Sandy cleanup effort, but which in fact was not performed.  As a result of submitting Fraudulent Time Certificates, GRIFFIN and GILLETTE obtained over $80,000 in fraudulent payments from DSNY through one of the Vendors.


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Set forth below is a chart containing the names, ages, residences, charges, and maximum penalties for the defendants.  The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.


Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, DOL-OIG, DSS, NYPD, and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.


The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason M. Swergold and Jessica Greenwood are in charge of the prosecution. 


The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.










Mail Fraud Conspiracy;

Mail Fraud In Connection with a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster



 30 years in prison  for each count




Mail Fraud Conspiracy;

Mail Fraud In Connection with a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster



 30 years in prison  for each count



[1] As the introductory phase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Press Release Number: 
Updated January 12, 2018