No justice yet for New Jersey victims of bogus Sandy contractor
TOMS RIVER — A contractor who has admitted to stealing more than $1 million from victims expecting him to fix their storm ravaged homes was not sentenced as expected on Monday, and is now trying to retract his guilty plea.
Brick resident Jamie Lawson was expected to be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in jail and have money in place to reimburse at least some of the 30 homeowners he ripped off after Super Storm Sandy. However, when he got to court on Monday the judge determined he did not have enough money for restitution, at which time Lawson attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.
Judge Wendel E. Daniels said because Lawson had not produced what he believed was enough restitution to start the process, he was not going to be as lenient on the sentence, the Press reported.
"If he's sentenced, it will be much higher than what was contemplated," the Asbury Park Press quoted the judge as saying.
When the terms of Lawson's plea deal were originally announced in October some of his victims felt it was a slap on the wrist considering everything they had gone through. When Jim and Carol Ferraioli's Port Monmouth home was damaged by the powerful storm they paid Lawson $64,000 to have elevate their home.
What their money got them was shoddy craftsmanship, work done without the proper permits and a home that they couldn't live in and was in danger of collapsing. As part of the plea deal Lawson could have been sentenced to 10 years in jail and served only three and a half years.
The Ferraiolis said that was not enough time considering all they had been through, and also wondered whether he could make good on the $1.8 million in restitution he would have to pay to make all his victims whole again.
"We haven't heard anything about it and even if I do get it back i wouldn't even say it would cover what he took from us," Carol said. "He cost us so much more money. We still have to pay taxes, mortgage — everything has gone up. Flood insurance, the whole nine yards."
The couple had bought the house only three years before the storm from a childhood friend, with Lawson's work damaging not only the home they lived in, but also a lot of memories Jim had long before the storm.
"The house has been a sentimental thing. It was a home to a lot of people within the family," Carol said. "It's not just that he ran out with our money. He also destroyed our house. We're not only financial victims. Our house is destroyed."
Al DellaFave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office called the delay "typical" for a case that saw Lawson run from the charges for six months before being arrested by U.S. Marshals in South Carolina last year.
"He finds every way to postpone the inevitable - victimizing these poor people financially and now emotionally" DellaFave said.
Lawson's next court date is scheduled for August 3.