LAFAYETTE, La. – Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that a federal grand jury has returned 11 separate indictments charging 11 individuals with fraudulently applying for and receiving disaster benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is a department of the United States Department of Homeland Security.
In August 2016, severe flooding impacted south Louisiana and a Presidential disaster declaration was issued on August 14, 2016 under the authority of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The incident period covered August 11, 2016 through August 31, 2016. FEMA was authorized to provide transportation assistance for repair or replacement of a primary vehicle damaged by the disaster.
The indictments allege that on certain dates between September 26, 2016 and November 11, 2016 each of the defendants, acting in concert with others, made false statements and representations to FEMA in an application for transportation benefits and provided certain documentation required by FEMA to process the claim in connection with the Presidential Disaster Declaration for the Louisiana Severe Storms and Flooding. Each application for Disaster Assistance was submitted on behalf of each defendant claiming their vehicle sustained flood damage in Iberia and Lafayette Parishes in Louisiana, when each of them was a resident of St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, which was not included as a designated parish for assistance.
The indictments further allege that each defendant submitted a signed letter to FEMA stating the subject vehicle belonged to the defendant, was their only means of transportation, and was no longer operable. In each case, the repair estimates submitted by each defendant, which ranged from $6,215 to $9,042, were all from repair shops that did not exist. A list of the defendants and the charges they face are as follows:
Nine individuals were previously indicted in related cases on April 22, 2021. Those individuals and their charges were as follows:
An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have any information to report concerning potential FEMA fraud, please call the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721.
This investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Ayo is prosecuting the cases.
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