TRENTON - An Ocean County woman has admitted stealing about $40,000 in benefit money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after recent major storms.
Federal prosecutors say Sara Cengiz, 47, of Brick, falsely claimed she needed the money for housing. She pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of disaster benefits fraud.
Prosecutors said Cengiz first sought benefits in April 2010, when she applied for federal rental assistance and aid for personal property damage. She falsely claimed she had to rent a place to live because her home had been damaged by severe storms, they said.
Cengiz submitted fraudulent lease agreements and rental receipts to FEMA to show she was paying rent, which she was not. From May 2010 to June 2011, she received $26,938 in fraudulently obtained disaster-related aid.
Cengiz filed another application with FEMA in August 2011, seeking federal rental assistance and assistance for personal property damage after Hurricane Irene. From November 2011 to January 2012, Cengiz received $13,039 in fraudulently obtained disaster-related aid, prosecutors said.
Cengiz faces up to 30 years in prison when she's sentenced in March. She also will have to pay restitution, though the exact amount had not been determined.