A Storm of a Lie

Hurricane evacuation route sign on highway

Wherever there is a disaster, it seems there is someone trying to cash in on it. But, what most fraudsters don’t realize is that the penalty for disaster fraud is higher than most realize.

Today’s fraudster is a Florida woman who is facing 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to making false statements to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (She tried to collect money from its Hurricane Irma fund.) Deannajo White, 39, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 28 to one count of disaster assistance fraud.

Hurricane Irma tore through southern Florida at 140 mph in September 2017, leaving millions without power and devastating properties. FEMA approved 774,691 individual requests for assistance totaling more than $1 billion, as well as $1.9 billion in public assistance. (But White’s application for FEMA assistance was not one of them.)

White claimed she was forced to stay in a nearby rental property after a tree fell on the roof of her Branford home during the hurricane. She reportedly later moved to a different rental property with a higher rent, adding receipts, leases and letters to her application. But law enforcement officers said she lied about her disaster assistance application, and then later admitted to making false statements to FEMA.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from the report, “Florida Woman Pleads Guilty for Hurricane Irma Assistance Fraud,” posted Jan. 28, 2020 in the International Business Times.

Florida woman was charged with one count of disaster assistance fraud on Friday.

39-year-old Deannajo White pleaded guilty in Jacksonville federal court to lying about the damage caused during Hurricane Irma.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.