HOUSTON WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO KATRINA-RELATED WIRE AND MAIL FRAUD
KAREN JONES, age 32, a resident of Houston, Texas, pled guilty yesterday before United States District Court Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt to one count of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud relating to her receipt of Section 8 benefits from the Housing Authority of New Orleans for a residence in which she did not live in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, announced United States Attorney Jim Letten.
According to court documents, after Hurricane Katrina, JONES moved to Houston, Texas and began receiving Disaster Housing Assistance Program (“DHAP”) benefits from FEMA for an apartment in Houston. At about the same time, she applied for Section 8 assistance for a residence in New Orleans. She did not inform HANO about the DHAP payments she was receiving. As a condition of receiving the Section 8 benefits, JONES promised to live in the residence for which she received Section 8 benefits. Instead, 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 to the landlord of her New Orleans residence by mail and by electronic check totaling $33,525.00. The Indictment charged that these payments by mail and by electronic means formed the basis of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges, respectively.
JONES faces a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years, followed by up to three (3) years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine for each count to which she pled guilty. Sentencing has been scheduled for September 21, 2011, at 9:00 a.m.
The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security - Office of the Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims or have knowledge of waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to: (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org