FREEHOLD – A Neptune Township man was found guilty Friday – for the second time – of bilking retailer Sears out of thousands of dollars in the wake of Superstorm Sandy by posing as a victim of the traumatic weather event that rocked the Jersey Shore in 2012, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

John C. Vanness, 57, of Riverside Drive in Neptune Township, was convicted Friday of multiple counts of Theft by Deception and Bad Checks, following a four day criminal trial. At trial it was established that over the course of two days, November 11 and 12, 2012, Vanness engaged in a scheme to steal $2,883.43 worth of merchandise from a Sears in Ocean Township.  During three separate transactions, Vanness passed bad checks drawn on his long defunct business checking account. Vanness conned the cashier into accepting the checks each time by claiming to be a victim of Superstorm Sandy, describing how the storm allegedly destroyed his home. Vanness quickly returned the stolen merchandise in exchange for cash at other local Sears locations.

The case was originally successfully tried in June 2014, but the conviction was overturned by the New Jersey Appellate Division. The case was returned for a retrial that concluded Friday with a second conviction.

Vanness is scheduled for sentencing before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Dennis R. O’Brien on December 14, 2018.

Vanness faces a sentence of three to five years in a New Jersey state prison on each of the Theft by Deception offenses and faces up to 18 months on each of the Bad Checks offenses.

The case was prosecuted to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Detzky.

Vanness is represented by Stefan Erwin, Esq., of Freehold.

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