Hurricane Sandy Con Artist Spent Weeks Fooling Shelter Officials

Victims of Hurricane Sandy weren't the only ones taken in by David Scott Ruddy. A shelter survivor was the one who turned Ruddy in after officials ignored her pleas.

When David Scott Ruddy was arrested in Woodbridge for allegedly flimflamming Hurricane Sandy victims out of $50,000 in FEMA funds, there was one person who not only knew who he was, but had been calling and warning officials about him for months.

That was Kathleen Marchitto, who met Ruddy first at a shelter put up at an Old Bridge school, and then later when she and other hurricane victims were moved to the Red Cross shelter set up at Livingston College of Rutgers University in Piscataway.

Marchitto, whose South River apartment was flooded during the October hurricane, was at the Livingston College shelter for three weeks, and for the entire time she was there, Ruddy was there.

"I knew there was something about him I didn't like. He was so persistent. He never gave up," Marchitto said.

It turns out Marchitto was right.

When the news came out that Ruddy had been arrested, not only was Marchitto not surprised, it was the information she had turned over to the NJ Attorney General's Office that got the ball moving. 

'He had full run' of the shelter

Ruddy was arrested in Woodbridge on January 26 on 11 counts of theft by deception and 3 counts of impersonation. He's being held without bail at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Facility in North Brunswick.

What Marchitto couldn't understand, though, was that when Ruddy was roaming around the Livingston campus shelter, he "was given full run of the place."

"No one stopped him. He said he was a police officer, then a bail bondsman, then a FEMA official. No one checked him out," Marchitto said in frustration.

"He was the go-to guy. He had access to private areas where only officials were supposed to go. No one stopped him. In fact, if anyone needed help, they were referred to Ruddy," she said.

The one thing that particularly freaked out Marchitto was when she went to her new home in New Brunswick, Ruddy called her on an unlisted phone number.

A domestic violence victim in the past, Marchitto said she is very strict about who gets her phone number. She couldn't figure out how else Ruddy would've gotten it, except by the close interaction he had with Livingston shelter officials and the freedom she says they gave him to go where he wanted and do what he liked.

"He kept asking me how much money I got from FEMA," Marchitto said. "I refused to tell him. It was none of his business."

Former neighbors of hers, though, were scammed by Ruddy. Some, she said, were particularly vulnerable. "Some of the people had mental issues and they would be easily taken in by someone like Ruddy," Marchitto said.

Neighbors taken in by scam

She began getting calls from some of the neighbors in January, when they found out Ruddy had taken their money and disappeared.

One neighbor was a young man who needed his car replaced. Ruddy took almost $4,800 and gave the man nothing. Another neighbor had given $900 to Ruddy to sublet an apartment Ruddy said he had in Woodbridge.

Ruddy gave the man a key and the address. When the victim showed up, the key didn't fit the lock, and Ruddy was gone, Marchitto said.

What Marchitto said she couldn't understand was why no one in authority ran a background check on Ruddy. 

"I'm no detective, but I did a simple Google search of him and I found mugshots of him and information on his activities," she said. 

Ruddy's mugshot is available online for apparently failing appear in court in Palm Beach County, FL in 2011.

Shelter offficials didn't know about con artist

One official in on the local Ruddy investigation said the man "scammed a lot of people. He was devious and got around people, but he also acted like he knew what he was doing."

"How often do you get someone who acts so authoritatively and winds up being a complete fraud?"

Some of the people Ruddy took in included Red Cross officials at the Livingston shelter site, members of the Old Bridge Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and a member of the Rutgers University Police Department, according to Marchitto.

Old Bridge Police Lieut. Robert Greenaway, who handles the township's CERT activities, remembered Ruddy, but said the man had nothing to do with them officially.

In fact, Ruddy had wanted to join the Old Bridge CERT team, he said.

"He was all gung-ho to join. I thought something was wrong when he approached me, and I told him to fill out an application if he wanted to join OB CERT," Greenaway said. "He refused to fill one out.

"We would've caught him if he had filled out an application, because you have to give your Social Security number."

Ruddy had nothing to do with the CERT team, he said.

Now residing in an apartment in New Brunswick after having lost her South River home, Marchitto took notes during the time she was at the Livingston shelter. She wrote down names of people who heavily interacted with Ruddy, and she said, when she went back to ask officials in charge of hurricane relief why they didn't question or investigate Ruddy, she couldn't get any answers.

"I hold them responsible. They were in charge. They should've investigated him and done something," Marchitto said. "I reported it to FEMA and the Red Cross. They weren't interested in the least. They said he didn't take anything from you, so what's the big deal?" 

Rutgers cop won't talk

One in particular, a police officer with the Rutgers police department, even denied having known Ruddy, Marchitto recalled. 

Marchitto identified the Rutgers officer as Emma O'Flanigan. 

Reached at Rutgers, O'Flanigan would only say she wasn't authorized to talk about Ruddy, and passed the call onto Rutgers police officials. They did not return phone calls.

The Red Cross, which was involved in the shelter, had no official comment on the particulars of Ruddy. 

" The Red Cross is looking into the situation," said Red Cross spokeswoman Diane Concannn. "Because it's an ongoing criminal case, all questions should be directed to local law enforcement."

At the end of the emergency when things were being wrapped up at the Livingston shelter, Ruddy didn't seem to want to leave, Greenaway said.

"He was one of the last people to leave the shelter. He was kind of hanging around. He didn't want to go home," Greenaway said. "I told my sergeant, something is up with this guy."

Marchitto contacted the Old Bridge police about a month ago, Greenaway said, and gave them the information she had found on Ruddy. "That's when our sergeant contacted Woodbridge [police]. We found out he was doing the same thing in New Brunswick. Within a week it all jelled together" and Ruddy was arrested, he said.

"He was a con artist. I never bought into it," Greenaway said. "It's crazy how he preyed on people."

See "Police Nab Impersonator Who Allegedly Scammed Hurricane Sandy Victims" for previous story.

Concerned Citizen February 14, 2013 at 05:07 PM
He will probably scam the courts into giving this clown a free lawyer, then bail, and then he will disappear completely. After all, the laws in this country are designed to protect the guilty.
JoAnne Capuano February 14, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Ms. Marchitto is one smart lady. Goes to show you - you can't trust anyone under any circumstances. Always- be careful. The autorities were completely at fault. You have a guy like that lurking around interacting with people and NO ONE checked him out? How nieve. We live in a world where you can't trust anyone. You have to look out for yourself because no one else will. Its a shame but that's the screwed up world we live in these days. People will take advantage of vulnerable victims.
Lou Cando February 15, 2013 at 09:07 PM
yeah i learned repeat offender get preference over honest citizens.. I was in couurt in a nj township for a speeding ticket the officer wrote the wrong info on my ticket and I found a case where tickets are invalid if the officer puts the wrong info so I was told to plead innocent and that I must must wait till the end of all the cases. In the course of the 3 hour wait a petty theft repeat offender who had been in the court many times case came up, you would think the judge and the accused were old friends, he got off with some kind of probation.. and left with a smile.. when my case came up the judge threatened me with contempt of court for bringing up the case of a ticket being invalid for misinformation and the officer looked like she was going to arrest me again and voiced extreme displeasure . bothe the judge and the officer treated me an honest tax paying citizen with no respect in fact i was treated with contempt while the petty theft was treated like a friend and left smiling that is why con artist, petty thiefs, low level criminals, are so confident thank the court and the judges the police depts and from this story rampant ignorance...on the part of officials..
john jay February 15, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Lou - So let me get this straight - you were speeding and the police officer made a mistake when completing the speeding ticket. The police officer was there in court, you were there in court, and you lengthened the court's docket so you could argue you should be let off, not that you were innocent of the charge, but because of some mistake on the ticket. Any why should the court be happy with that? Take a look for your moral compass - probably under the front seat.
Curious George February 16, 2013 at 04:35 PM
It's the same way the gov't ignored all the tips about terrorists taking flying lessons and not wanting to know how to land the planes...It's about how they ignored all the obvious warnings of a big attack prior to 9/11/01. Where is it said that our health care system is unconstitutional? What amendment is being violated by the affordable health care plan? As I recall, it was ruled constitutional by the supreme court last year...


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