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Prosecutors: Phony Contractor Targeted Senior Community in Toms River, Approached Elderly at Bank

Robert Cohan (Photo: Ocean County Jail)

Robert Cohan (Photo: Ocean County Jail)

A 36-year-old local man has pleaded guilty to theft by deception in a case in which he posed as the relative of a legitimate contractor in order to scam residents of a Toms River senior community into purchasing renovations.

Robert Cohan, 36, of Lakehurst, pled guilty to theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Kimarie Rahill on Monday. At the time of his sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 27, 2023, the state will be seeking a term of eight years New Jersey State Prison, along with approximately $220,000 in restitution to multiple victims, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

According to authorities, an investigation by Toms River police revealed that between Feb. 2022 and May 2022, Cohan – oftentimes posing as a relative of someone who owns a legitimate contracting business – targeted residents of the Gardens of Pleasant Plains, an age-restricted community in Toms River.

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Specifically, officials said, Cohan solicited individuals to engage his services to perform work on the exterior of their residences. But he then performed “little to no work,” stealing approximately $200,000 from more than 10 victims in the process. On June 23, 2022, Cohan was charged with theft by deception and taken into custody by detectives from the Toms River Township Police Department without incident.

Cohan was subsequently released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.

A subsequent investigation by the Berkeley Township Police Department revealed that in Sept. 2022, Cohan approached an elderly victim at a bank in Berkeley Township – using a false identity – and solicited a small amount of money. In exchange, the victim allowed Cohan to perform a small task on her property in lieu of being paid back.

“With knowledge of the victim’s address, Cohan continuously visited the victim and solicited larger sums of money for multiple reasons, including funeral expenses for his purportedly deceased father-in-law,” the statement from prosecutors said. “Cohan would also accompany the victim to several banks – convincing her to withdraw large sums of money from her account or by way of credit card cash advances – which totaled approximately $20,000.”

Further investigation determined that Cohan’s father-in-law was, in fact, alive and that Cohan received the money from the victim under false pretenses. As a result, Cohan was again charged with theft by deception; consequently, his previous release under bail reform policies was revoked by the court. On Oct. 5, 2022, Cohan was taken into custody by detectives from the Berkeley Township Police Department, and he has been lodged in the Ocean County Jail since that date.

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