“TOMS RIVER – A family that was victimized when superstorm Sandy destroyed their Long Beach Island home in 2012 was preyed upon again when a Toms River contractor took more than $75,000 for repairs that weren’t completed, according to a grand jury indictment.
Robert J. Rieche, 71, of Toms River was charged in a recent indictment with theft from the estate of a 72-year-old woman whose home was destroyed in the epic storm on Oct. 29, 2012.
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Greta S. Purgavie died in 2009, years before superstorm Sandy ravaged her home in Ship Bottom, said Martin Anton, a supervising assistant Ocean County prosecutor.
Her son, Charles Purgavie Jr., executor of his mother’s estate, hired Rieche in early 2013 to gut and renovate the house so that his sister could live in it, Anton said.
Purgavie paid Rieche about $131,000 to do the work, but Rieche performed very little of it, Anton said.
“Purgavie lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, so he didn’t really see the progress of the work,’’ Anton said.
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Rieche had removed insulation, copper piping and the back door and steps from the home, scraped for mold and started doing electrical work and painting and installation of drywall and trim, Anton said.
But the contractor allegedly diverted more than $75,000 of the money that Purgavie paid him, Anton said.
Anton alleged that Rieche instead used some of the money for a down payment on a home in his wife’s name and diverted more of it to other projects. Some of the money was used to purchase flooring and cabinets, but no floors or cabinets were ever installed in the Purgavie family home, the assistant prosecutor said.
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“It doesn’t make any sense that any of these expenditures had anything to do with this project,’’ Anton said. “They couldn’t be related to the project because they were for things that were never installed.’’
In addition, the investigation by Detective James Conroy of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office revealed that Rieche used some of the funds to write checks to his wife and daughter, Anton said.
The indictment alleges that Purgavie gave the money to Rieche under a contract that specified the exact uses for the funds, but said he instead used it for his own purposes.
The theft occurred between Jan. 27, 2013 and Jan. 8, 2014, the indictment said.
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The theft Rieche is accused of is a second-degree crime that carries a term of imprisonment between five and 10 years upon a conviction.
Rieche is free on $10,000 bail, which he posted on Aug. 26, 2015, following his arrest, according to the indictment.
He will face an arraignment on the charge within the next several weeks.
Kathleen Hopkins: 732-643-4202; Khopkins@app.com”
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