News and Press Releases

22 INDIVIDUALS CHARGED WITH FRAUD RELATED TO THE RECOVERY FUNDS FOLLOWING HURRICANE KATRINA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2010

22 individuals are facing federal felony charges via grand jury indictments or bills of information as a result of alleged Katrina fraud offenses, announced United States Attorney Jim Letten, joined by David Welker, FBI Special Agent in Charge New Orleans Division, Robert Anderson, Special Agent in Charge, Housing and Urban Development Inspector General for the New Orleans Division, Terence Barrett, United States Postal Inspection Service Supervisor, Michael Brannon, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office, New Orleans Division, Scott Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, Small Business Administration Inspector General’s Office and Bruce J. Paluch, Resident Agent in Charge, Diplomatic Security Service, New Orleans.

Specifically, 12 individuals have been charged by federal grand jury indictment and 10 individuals charged by bill of information. Many of these cases were referred as a result of complaints by and through the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which has its command center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The charged individuals are as follows:

RUTH LESLIE GOODMAN, a/k/a Ruth Goodman, a/k/a Meagan McKinney, age 49, a resident of New Orleans, was charged in a 6-count superseding indictment for theft of government funds, mail fraud, false statements and possession of a falsely obtained Canadian passport. According to the indictment, between August, 2005 and September, 2007, the defendant created and executed a scheme to defraud the Louisiana Road Home, FEMA, and the Small Business Administration of over $439,000.00 in government funds. The indictment also alleges that the defendant received and possessed an official Canadian passport stating that she was born in Canada when she was actually born in the United States. GOODMAN faces a maximum term of fifty-five (55) years imprisonment, over $1 million in fines, and up to three (3) years of supervised release. The case was investigated by the Small Business Administration - Office of Inspector General, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General, the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service and the United States Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Marvin Opotowsky and Scott Laragy.

KAREN JONES, age 32, a resident of Houston, Texas, was charged today in a 25-count indictment with mail fraud and wire fraud related to her receipt of Section 8 benefits. According to the indictment, JONES moved to Houston, Texas following Hurricane Katrina and began receiving Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) benefits from FEMA for an apartment there. It is alleged that at approximtaely the same time, she also applied to the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) for Section 8 assistance for a residence in New Orleans and did not inform HANO about the DHAP payments she was receiving. As a condition, JONES promised to live in the residence for which she received Section 8 benefits. It is alleged that she continued to live in Houston and did not live in the New Orleans residence. As a result of JONES’S actions, between December 2006 and December 2008, HANO made monthly payments totaling $33,525 to the landlord of her New Orleans residence by mail and by electronic check, thus securing the rental of multiple properties as a result of her fraudulent acts. The Indictment alleges that these payments by mail and by electronic means form the basis of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges, respectively. If convicted, JONES faces a possible maximum sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and three (3) years supervised release as to each count. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.

ELAINE L. MULLONE, age 63, a resident of Houston, Texas, was charged in a three-count bill of information with theft of government funds. According to the bill, the defendant’s primary residence was in Houston, Texas, at the time Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana. Following the hurricane, she falsely represented that her property in Madisonville, LA, was her primary residence when she applied for grants from FEMA, the SBA, and the Louisiana Road Home Program. According to the bill, MULLONE received approximately $395,000 in government benefits from these programs to which she was not entitled. The defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of ten (10) years, a fine of $250,000.00, three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, and the forfeiture of her Madisonville property. The case was investigated by agents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of the Inspector General, the Small Business Administration - Office of the Inspector General,, the Department of Homeland Security - Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Loan “Mimi” Nguyen.

PATRICIA A. BOWMAN, age 54, a resident of Marrero, Louisiana, was indicted in a one-count indictment for making a material false statement to FEMA. It is alleged that BOWMAN falsely represented on her application for disaster assistance that she resided at 139 Morgan Court, Westwego, Louisiana, and had evacuated from that address when Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005. According to the indictment, BOWMAN was living in the 2400 block of Claire Avenue in Gretna, Louisiana at the time and did not evacuate. Based on her application, BOWMAN fraudulently received $2000. If convicted, BOWMAN faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five (5) years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.

HUBERT JOSEPH SENTINO, JR., age 48, a resident of New Orleans, LA, was charged in a one-count bill of information with theft of government funds. According to the bill, the defendant sold his home in early 2005 and moved in with his in-laws. He had just finished building rental units on property owned by his in-laws and attempted to purchase the property on the Friday before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It is alleged that the defendant filed a fraudulent application with the Louisiana Road Home Program declaring the damaged rental property was his primary residency and home on August 29, 2005, and as a result, received $61,000 in Road Home grant funds to which he was not entitled. If convicted, SENTINO faces a maximum sentence of ten (10) years in prison, a $250,000.00 fine, and a three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment. The case was investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Marvin Opotowsky.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross made disaster assistance money of up to $1,565 available to those affected by the hurricanes of 2005 on a one-time only basis. The following defendants have been charged separately with falsely representing to the Red Cross they had not received assistance in the past, when they had in fact applied for and received “one-time” assistance payments on multiple occasions. If convicted, each defendant faces a possible maximum term of twenty (20) years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three (3) years of supervised release as well as restitution to the American Red Cross.

KEITH WATSON, age 55, a resident of Slidell, LA, was charged with wire fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, WATSON presented himself to different American Red Cross assistance centers on nine (9) occasions from September, 2005 to October, 2005, and based on his applications, fraudulently obtained received $12,520. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Julia Evans.

GEORGIA MOORE BROWN, age 28, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud today in a one-count bill of information. According to the bill, BROWN presented herself to different American Red Cross assistance centers on five (5) occasions from September, 2005 to October, 2005, and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $4,155. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Julia Evans.

TASHIBA CLOY, age 32, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud today in a one-count bill of information. According to the bill, CLOY presented herself to different American Red Cross assistance centers on four (4) occasions from September 2005 to October 2005, and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $3,495. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Julia Evans.

LESHEA HANIBLE, age 33, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, HANIBLE presented herself to the the American Red Cross on five (5) occasions from September, 2005 to October, 2005, and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained received $5,960. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Julia Evans.

NADINE TILLIS, age 49, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud today in a one-count bill of information. According to the bill, TILLIS presented herself to different American Red Cross assistance centers on four (4) occasions from September, 2005 and October, 2005, and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $4,395. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Julia Evans.

PORSHA HARRISON, age 23, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with mail fraud in a one-count indictment. According to indictment, HARRISON presented herself to the American Red Cross on six (6) occasions during a four (4) week period in the fall of 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $4,765. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Spiro Latsis.

ASHLEY HARRISON, age 28, a resident of Hammond, LA was charged with wire fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, HARRISON presented herself to the American Red Cross on four (4) occasions during a four (4) week period in the fall of 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $3,495. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Spiro Latsis.

CYNTHIA BERRY, age 50, a resident of Hammond, LA was charged with wire fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, BERRY presented herself to the American Red Cross on three (3) occasions during a four (4) week period in the fall of 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $4,335. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Spiro Latsis.

JUAN OWENS, age 44, a resident of Ponchatoula, LA, was charged on August 20, 2010 with mail fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, OWENS presented himself to the American Red Cross on ten (10) occasions during a six (6) week period in the fall of 2005 and based on his applications, fraudulent obtained $13,480. This case was investigated by the U. S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Spiro Latsis.

TAMMY HICKERSON, age 43, a resident of Ponchatoula, LA was charged with wire fraud in a one-count bill of information. According to the bill, HICKERSON presented herself to the American Red Cross on ten (10) occasions during a six (6) week period in the fall of 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $9,390. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Spiro Latsis.

LAFREDA WINSTON, age 30, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, WINSTON presented herself to the American Red Cross on seven (7) occasions in the fall of 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently received $5,960. This case was investigated by the U. S. Postal Service-Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.

DIANA D. MAZE, age 63, a resident of Gibson, LA, was charged in with mail fraud in a one-count bill of information. According to the bill, MAZE presented herself to the American Red Cross on ten (10) occasions in the fall of 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently received $6,320. This case was investigated by the U. S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.

KEAIRE L. MAZE, age 26, a resident of Gibson, Louisiana, was charged in a one-count bill of information for mail fraud. According to the bill, MAZE presented herself to the American Red Cross on twelve (12) different occasions in September, 2005 and October, 2005, and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $8,190. This case was investigated by the U. S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.

SHEUNDRIA EVANS, age 25, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud in a one-count bill of information for wire fraud. According to the bill, EVANS presented herself to the American Red Cross on six (6) occasions in September, 2005 and October, 2005, and based on her applications, fraudulent obtained $4,095. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.

CALVIN GALLO, age 45, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with mail fraud in a one-count bill of information. According to the bill, GALLO presented himself to the American Red Cross on multiple occasions during a four week period between September 14, 2005 and October 24, 2005, and based on his applications, fraudulently obtained $6,620.00. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dan Friel.

REGINA PAYNE, age 54, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud in a one-count indictment. According to the indictment, PAYNE presented herself to the American Red Cross approximately 15 times during a four week period between September 17, 2005 and October 19, 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $17,215. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dan Friel.

GLORIOUS SHABAZZ, age 45, a resident of Hammond, LA, was charged with wire fraud in a one count indictment. According to the indictment, SHABAZZ presented herself to the American Red Cross on approximately 9 occasions between September 17, 2005 and October 5, 2005 and based on her applications, fraudulently obtained $11,020. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Dan Friel.

U. S. Attorney Letten reiterated that these indictments and bills are merely charges and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

To date, the United States Attorney’s Office has brought felony charges against 182 defendants concerning Hurricane Katrina fraud in the Eastern District of Louisiana. To date, we have a 100% conviction rate and intend to continue to aggressively pursue any disaster fraud.

Speaking to today’s developments, U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated:

“As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and citizens continue in the historic struggle to rebuild this great American city and region, we in federal law enforcement will continue to use all resources available to fiercely protect those funds which the American people have made available for the benefit of our citizens and our communities. As evidenced by the charges we have outlined today, no amount of fraud – however small or large – will be tolerated as we defend the public trust.”

David Welker, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, added:

"As we near the 5 year anniversary of Katrina, it is fitting that those people who chose to defraud the very system designed to help victims of Katrina are brought to justice. These charges are indicative of the vigilance of the FBI and our law enforcement partners and reflective of the FBI's commitment to identify and prevent subjects from defrauding the programs established to help the citizens of this region recover!"

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Inspector General Kenneth M. Donohue, stated:

“The HUD Office of Inspector General remains committed in its unceasing efforts to combat fraud in New Orleans, the State of Louisiana, and all the Gulf States. We have joined with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to bring to justice those who would defraud families and communities who are relying on federal funds to rebuild their homes and their lives. Regarding the Louisiana Road Home Program in the Eastern District of Louisiana, to date our work has resulted in 28 indictments: 26 guilty pleas, 1 conviction at trial, and 1 awaiting trial. These indictments equal $2,377,872.00 in fraud against LRHP funds.”

Inspector in Charge Gary R. Barksdale, US Postal Inspection Service, Houston Division, stated:

“Postal Inspectors from around the country responded to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to help support and protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers. Inspectors worked alongside of the 6,000 postal employees in the area, many of whom suffered personal losses but still rose to the occasion. Inspectors supported the Postal Service’s plan which focused on responding to the scene, reconnecting with employees, re-establishing mail service, and rebuilding. This anniversary is a reminder for everyone in hurricane-prone areas to prepare for storms.”

DHS-OIG Inspector General Richard Skinner added:

"We all suffer when federal programs are undermined by fraud. Today's charges should send a clear message that we intend to stop these types of fraudulent disaster related practices. DHS-OIG will continue to be committed to working with our law enforcement partners to identify and aggressively investigate all allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse to protect the integrity of DHS personnel, programs, and operations."

Bruce J. Paluch, Resident Agent in Charge, Diplomatic Security Service, New Orleans, also stated:

“Among today’s disaster fraud cases is an instance in which we see for the first time since Katrina, the fraudulent and illegal use of a passport. The citizens should know that the Diplomatic Security Service will continue to remain vigilant in the protection of our national security and in support of our partner federal agencies - including disaster fraud - whenever we are needed.”

Scott Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, Small Business Administration Inspector General’s Office, stated:

“The Office of Inspector General for the Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to ensuring the residents of the Gulf Coast region impacted by these devastating hurricanes receive the necessary assistance to rebuild their communities and businesses. Our office will continue to investigate and prosecute all individuals who defraud our loan program. We appreciate the assistance of all Task Force participants and the U. S. Attorney’s Office in accomplishing this mission.”

Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Disaster Fraud Hotline at 877-NCDF-GCF (623-3423), the Disaster Fraud Fax at 225-334-4707 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at disaster@leo.gov. Individuals can also report criminal activity to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

 

 

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