YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A con man who authorities said “ruthlessly preyed” on Hurricane Sandy victims at temporary shelters by offering low-cost housing and cars, then taking off with $55,000 of their money, took a plea deal and admitted to the crimes today.
David Scott Ruddy, 33, of Metuchen, pleaded guilty to a third-degree theft by deception charge and agree to pay restitution to all of his victims.
“Posing as a rescue worker to prey on homeless disaster victims is about as low as you can go,” acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this afternoon. “I am gratified that we were able to return the favor, so to speak, by arranging a home for Ruddy in prison.”
Ruddy also pleaded guilty in Superior Court in New Brunswick today to a third-degree charge of theft by deception filed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which charged him with swindling four additional victims.
One man lent Ruddy a car that he never returned; a second loaned him $25,000 that he failed to repay; and two other victims paid him a total of $6,800 because he falsely claimed that he was a bail bond agent who would bail their children out of jail, Hoffman said.
He must repay them, as well.
Sentencing was set for Nov. 18. If he gets prison time for the state and county charges, the sentences will run concurrently, Hoffman said.
Ruddy will remain held in the Middlesex County Jail on detainers in connection with fugitive warrants issued by authorities in Georgia, Hoffman said.
Ruddy visited shelters pretending to be a Red Cross worker of law enforcment officer there to help, the 10-count indictment returned in Trenton in July says.
Once he gained the victims’ trust, it says, Ruddy offered to rent or sell properties that he said he owned or controlled, as well as low-cost cars that he said he bought at police auctions.
He then collected from $1,000 to $9,000 from each, state authorities allege.
Sometimes using the aliases David Castro and David Gartman, Ruddy “ruthlessly preyed on people whose homes and cars were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy… while these victims were at their most desperate and vulnerable,” Hoffman said.
He “stole the money they needed to put their lives back together, leaving some of them without a permanent place to live to this day,” he said.
Overall, the indictment charged Ruddy with stealing from 13 victims — among them, seven who needed housing or a car due to the superstorm and five who needed these for other reasons.
The final victim needed furniture, which state authorities said he promised to order for her.
According to Hoffman:
Deputy Attorney General Jillian B. Carpenter presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
The investigation was led by Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department.
Assistant Prosecutors Cindy Glaser, Christopher Schellhorn and Eric Snyder handled the case for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Detectives Kimberly Allen and Scott Stevens investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
The American Red Cross provided valuable assistance through Chief Investigator Frank R. Favilla of the Office of Investigations, Compliance and Ethics.
The Metuchen Police Department and the Dunellen Police Department also provided valuable assistance.
MUGSHOT: Courtesy NJ Attorney General’s Office