N.J. Home Construction Scam Nailed

May 11, 2004

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has charged an Ocean County construction contractor and a local appraiser with operating a home construction scam that resulted in the theft of more than $185,000 from home owners who contracted for repairs or new construction.

According to Vaughn McKoy, director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, Joseph Birnie, 37, of Brick Township and Michael Delisi, 46, of Brick Township, Ocean County, were charged via a State Grand Jury indictment with conspiracy and theft by failure to make required disposition of property received (3rd degree). Birnie was also charged with a separate count of theft by failure to make required disposition of property received (2nd degree). Birnie faces up to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $180,000, while Delisi faces up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $30,000. Additionally, both defendants face possible civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act.

Gooden Brown said the State Grand Jury indictment charges that from Dec. 17, 1998 to May 29, 2002, Birnie, who owned FHA Inc. construction company located at 136 Drum Point Road in Brick Township and 53 Main Street in Toms River, defrauded four home owners out of more than $152,000 on promises he would repair fire-damaged homes or build new replacement modular homes.

In each case, the indictment charges that Birnie entered into a contract with the homeowners to either repair the fire damage or build a new modular home, accepted insurance settlement monies as deposits on the work and then did no clean up, restoration or construction work.

In a separate count of the indictment, it is alleged that Birnie conspired with Delisi, a licensed public insurance adjuster who did business as Anton Adjustment Inc. and as a building/contractor trading as Krypton Contracting in Brick Township.

The indictment alleges that Birnie and Delisi obtained more than $33,000 in insurance claim monies from an insured homeowner for restoration of a home damaged by fire. It is charged that neither Delisi or Birnie completed any restoration work, instead using the monies for their own purposes.

The indictment was handed up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Maria Marinari Sypek on April 30. The case will be assigned to the Ocean County Superior Court for trial.

Birnie and Delisi will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment and bail on a date to be determined.

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