Final Sentencing Concludes Fraud Prosecutions Related To 2011 Bastrop Wildfires
Four Defendants Were Convicted Of Submitting False Claims To FEMA
United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced today that on Thursday, August 15, 2013, United States District Judge Sam Sparks sentenced Roy Albert McDougald, Jr., age 46, formerly of Spicewood, Texas, to imprisonment for 12 months and a day for making a false claim for housing benefits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) in the wake of the wildfires that erupted in Central Texas around Labor Day 2011. McDougald was the fourth of four defendants to be sentenced in the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas for similar crimes related to the wildfires.
The fires began on August 30, 2011, and destroyed more than a thousand homes as they continued into September. President Obama declared a major disaster on September 9, 2011. FEMA personnel began arriving in Central Texas to provide disaster relief while the wildfires were still burning, and they eventually processed thousands of applications for individual benefits. Among other forms of monetary relief, benefits up to a maximum of $30,200 were available to owners of homes that had been damaged or destroyed.
On December 4, 2012, a federal grand jury in Austin, Texas indicted three defendants on charges of filing a fraudulent claim for federal disaster relief, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014. The Defendants were McDougald; Manuel Hernandez, age 53, of Smithville, Texas; and Ginger Roe, age 65, of Temple, Texas. On February 19, 2013, the federal grand jury indicted Andre Oliver, age 48, of Paige, Texas, on similar charges.
Each indictment alleged that the defendant had made a claim to FEMA for housing benefits, asserting that the wildfires had destroyed a trailer home that he or she owned and lived in as his or her primary residence. Each of the indictments alleged that the defendant’s claim was false and fraudulent, either because the trailer home was not the defendant’s primary residence or because the defendant did not own the trailer home. Hernandez, Roe, and Oliver each received $30,200 from FEMA based on their applications, and McDougald received $20,420.
Each of the four defendants eventually entered into a plea bargain with the United States Attorney’s Office, under which the defendants pleaded guilty to making a false claim to the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287. McDougald was the last of the defendants to be sentenced, and the other three received sentences as follows:
• On May 10, 2013, Judge Sparks sentenced Hernandez to a five-year term of probation and a $3,000 fine.
• On June 24, 2013, Judge Sparks sentenced Oliver to imprisonment for 12 months and a day, followed by a 3-year term of supervised release.
• On July 25, 2013, United States District Judge Lee Yeakel sentenced Roe to a five-year term of probation.
Each of the four of the defendants was also ordered to repay to FEMA the money they received as a result of their false claim ($30,200 each for Hernandez, Olive and Roe, and $20,420 for McDougald).
These cases were investigated by the Office of Inspector General of the United States Department of Homeland Security.