Perfectly Corrupt Storm

Man and his wife owners, checking burned and ruined house and yard after fire, consequences of fire disaster accident. Ruins after fire disaster.

FEMA’s Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program is intended to provide disaster relief funding for emergency home repairs. Juli Campbell, the owner of a Puerto Rican contracting company, instead saw it as an opportunity to line her pockets through disaster fraud after Hurricane Maria devastated Saint Croix in 2017.

The category 5 storm ripped off roofs, uprooted trees, and destroyed power and communications infrastructure in Saint Croix. (You’d think a company in the affected region might have a little compassion for the islanders—but no!)

Following a federal investigation and raid of her Puerto Rico-based business, an indictment alleged that Campbell lodged home repair workers in multi-occupancy rooms at reduced rates, while charging STEP full prices, and used similar tactics to inflate food reimbursements. Her company also submitted fraudulent invoices and timesheets for a STEP-funded subcontract—for work not actually performed. (A slight oversight, no doubt.)

Campbell was charged with major disaster fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and identity theft—charges that could have landed her in prison for up to 30 years, with a fine of up to $1 million.

In January 2020 Campbell pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining disaster relief funds. Under the plea agreement, she was sentenced to 14 months in prison and ordered to pay $179,033 in restitution.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Virgin Islands Consortium article, “Juli Campbell Sentenced to 14 Months in Jail, Ordered to Pay $179,033, published Jan. 16, 2020.

ST. CROIX — United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert for the District of the Virgin Islands announced today that Juli Campbell was sentenced to 14 months in prison for fraud related to FEMA’s Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program. Mrs. Campbell, the owner of a Puerto Rico construction company, pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining disaster relief funds intended to help the territory rebuild following the 2017 hurricanes.

The outcome follows The Consortium’s relentless reporting of Campbell Development’s treatment of contract workers brought to the territory. Our stories also resulted in the raiding of Campbell Development’s office in Peter’s Rest by multiple federal law enforcement arms. The raid occurred on November 2, 2018, with the agents seemingly packing all documents and other items that could serve as evidence in a case. At the time, an agent told The Consortium that because the case was still unfolding, details relative to the matter could not be divulged. Even so, the men packed boxes of documents and other items and placed them in a truck.

Additional information is from a St. Croix Source article, “Developer Admits Defrauding Feds; Faces 30 Years,” published Aug. 5, 2019.

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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.