Putting out the Fraud Fire

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In August 2012, a wildfire broke out near Mannford, Okla., and spread swiftly across town destroying nearly 80 square miles of homes, buildings and dry vegetation. According to an article in Tulsa World, as affected residents began to rebuild their lives following the disastrous event, a Mannford woman deceptively took advantage of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) benefits.

The story states that the 42-year-old woman claimed her primary residence had been destroyed by the widespread fire. It turns out that the home, which was really owned by the woman’s mother, was unoccupied, rundown and did not have utility service. (Sounds like a fraud shack to me.) As a result of her false claims, the fraudster received more than $31,000 in disaster aid.

The woman pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agency. She has not been sentenced yet, but could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

When disasters like this one strike, it is a prime opportunity for swindlers to take advantage of government funds meant for deserving beneficiaries, who need a helping hand to get back on their feet. In this particular case, the government was able to douse this disaster fraud fire before it had a chance to spread, preventing more money from being stolen out of the pockets of honest tax-paying citizens.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Mannford Woman Pleads Guilty to Disaster Aid Fraud,” written by Amanda Bland and published in Tulsa World on May 3, 2014.

A Mannford woman who received $31,400 in federal disaster aid related to the town’s 2012 wildfires has pleaded guilty to fraud.

Kerry Lynn Rowell, 42, is accused of falsifying an application for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance benefits by claiming that a destroyed, abandoned home was her primary residence, according to statement by the office of U.S. Attorney Danny Williams Sr.

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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.