Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on May 6, 2022, John Bishop, 57, of Celebration, Florida, pled guilty before the Honorable Lisa A. Puglisi, J.S.C., to Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-9. On May 9, 2022, Bishop’s business partner, Paul Rueda, 50, of San Diego, Texas, pled guilty before Judge Puglisi to the same charge of Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-9. Both defendants’ guilty pleas relate to their stealing funds through contractor businesses they operated between October 2014 and May 2017 in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties. At the time of sentencing on July 15, 2022, the State will be recommending a term of four years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) for Bishop, and five years NJSP as to Rueda. As part of their plea agreements, Bishop has agreed to pay $178,425 in restitution to the victims; Rueda has agreed to pay $542,800 in restitution to the victims.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit revealed that Bishop and Rueda formed John Paul Building, LLC, in November 2012. The investigation further revealed that six homeowners throughout Ocean, Monmouth, and Middlesex Counties entered into contracts with John Paul Builders, LLC, to repair their homes following Superstorm Sandy. Collectively, these homeowners paid John Paul Builders, LLC, in excess of $350,000, which the defendants agreed to use to complete the projects. The homeowners received little to no work on their projects, however, and the company disbanded without returning any of the funds to the homeowners.
Subsequently, between July 2016 and May 2017, Rueda entered in agreements with four additional homeowners under his newly formed contracting business, PKR Construction. These homeowners paid PKR Construction a total of $363,575 towards construction projects on their properties. Although some work was done by PKR Construction, Rueda converted the victims’ funds to his own personal use and benefit, and failed to complete the projects.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Heisler who is handling the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, Little Egg Harbor Police Department, Brick Township Police Department, Point Pleasant Borough Police Department, and Middletown Township Police Department, for their collaborative assistance in connection with this investigation leading to Bishop’s and Rueda’s guilty pleas, and soon their state prison sentences.