- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - A former director of an engineering firm charged with illegally altering reports about damage from Superstorm Sandy pleaded guilty to unauthorized practice of engineering in connection with the case, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday.

Matthew Pappalardo, 39, pleaded guilty in Nassau County state supreme court to one charge of altering an engineering report. He is expected to be sentenced to three years’ probation and a $10,000 fine.

Pappalardo’s Uniondale-based firm Hi-Rise Engineering was one of several engineering firms hired by insurance companies to evaluate structural damage to homes after the 2012 storm wrought havoc in New York’s coastal communities.

An indictment unsealed in August charged Pappalardo and Hi-Rise with multiple counts of second-degree forgery, a felony. Prosecutors said Pappalardo had employees heavily edit reports on damage to residences in ways that substantially changed conclusions about the extent or cause of damage.

“My office is committed to protecting homeowners and ensuring that their insurance claims are handled accurately and fairly,” Schneiderman said in a news release.

Attorneys for Pappalardo and Hi-Rise Engineering said their clients never intended to harm any homeowners.

Pappalardo’s lawyer, Avi Mokowitz, said Pappalardo pleaded guilty to a single count of editing a report.

“There was no criminal intent,” he said. “The changes made were to correct reports, to make them more accurate.”

Hi-Rise Engineering pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation in the fifth degree, a violation.

Hi-Rise was in a tough position doing a huge amount of work in a small amount of time,” said Kenneth C. Murphy, an attorney for the firm. “There was never an intent to harm a homeowner.”

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