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Queens Chronicle

New bill adds fines to disaster zone crimes

Would target fraud, looting offenses

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:42 am, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

If you commit the crime, you will do the time.

And if you commit one in a part of the city under a mandatory evacuation order, you’ll pay a pretty hefty fine too.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) joined with City Council Minority Leader James Oddo (R-Staten Island) to introduce a bill last week that would add a civil penalty to anyone convicted of fraud or property-related crimes under New York State law in an area that is under a mandatory evacuation order because of a natural or manmade disaster such as a hurricane.

Those convicted would face a $50,000 civil penalty on top of the sentences they receive for the crime or crimes.

“People who commit crimes in disaster areas are downright despicable and deserve to face the stiffest penalties under the law,” Ulrich said. “If passed, this bill would punish those who capitalize on others’ misfortune and act as a deterrent for anyone who thinks they can get away with breaking the law.”

Those convicted of looting, graffiti-tagging, arson, robbery and trespassing would face the additional penalty under the proposed legislation.

The bill would also target those convicted of fraud, including those who pretend to be law enforcement, emergency management or utility workers with the intent of defrauding a storm victim.

A number of looting offensives were reported in the Rockaways and in parts of Brooklyn under mandatory evacuation orders in the days after Hurricane Sandy. Though there were early rumors of looting in Howard Beach, the NYPD said none of the reports panned out.

Though fraud was not widely reported in the wake of Sandy, there were a number of complaints to police about attempts to defraud storm victims by people pretending to be aid workers, law enforcement officials and contractors during the cleanup and rebuilding process.

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