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
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.