The Fraud After the Storm

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Hurricane Ike made landfall in September 2008, causing widespread damage across the coastlines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. At that time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offered financial disaster benefits to those who were displaced by the hurricane in multiple counties located throughout Texas. (Take note that disaster benefits were not offered for the State of Georgia.) An article published in the Gwinnett Daily Post states that a Georgia resident and two co-conspirators from Pennsylvania filed for disaster benefits, claiming they were residents of Galveston, Texas during Hurricane Ike.

The story states that the three fraudsters worked together to submit applications for disaster relief benefits in 2008 and 2009, claiming that their personal property had been damaged by the storm. In reality, the co-conspirators all lived in Georgia during that time. Together, they received $50,000 in disaster assistance for their fraudulent claims.

The 45-year-old Georgia woman pleaded guilty to theft of government money. The 57-year-old man and 49-year-old woman, who were former residents of Georgia, also pleaded guilty to theft of government money.

This case was investigated by the Disaster Fraud Task Force, which was established in 2005 to deter, detect and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes including charity fraud, identity theft, procurement fraud and insurance fraud related to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. As multiple disasters followed in subsequent years, the Task Force expanded its mission to include all types of disaster fraud.

Congratulations to the investigators who tracked down these three and prosecuted them for their crime. These criminals will no longer be allowed to collect money that they do not deserve at the expense of those who do.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Lawrenceville Woman Pleads Guilty to Stealing Hurricane Relief Funds,” written by Tyler Estep and published in the Gwinnett Daily Post on April 22, 2014.

ATLANTA — A Lawrenceville woman has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining funds intended for hurricane victims.

Angela Pratt Avery, 45, entered her guilty plea to a single count of theft of government Tuesday in federal court. Along with two co-defendants from Pennsylvania, Avery was accused of filing for and receiving more than $50,000 in disaster relief funds issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of Hurricane Ike, which caused widespread damage along the gulf coast in 2008.

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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.