Perfectly Corrupt Storm

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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, 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.