When David Scott Ruddy was arrested 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 for Jersey Shore and other victims, and then later when she and other hurricane victims were moved to a Red Cross shelter set up at Livingston College of Rutgers University in Piscataway.
Marchitto, whose 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 Jan. 26 on 11 counts of theft by deception and three 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 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."