September 8, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jackson, Mississippi - United States Attorney Dunn Lampton announced today that three more individuals have entered guilty pleas in United States District Court for FEMA fraud.
Stephanie Fontan, of Morton, Mississippi, pled guilty to making a false statement to FEMA for Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance funds. Fontan received $6,000 from FEMA by providing a false address in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and claiming hurricane damage at that address. At the time Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Fontan was living in Scott County, Mississippi.
Stephen Fontan, of Morton, Mississippi, pled guilty to submitting a false claim to FEMA for Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance funds. Fontan received $2,000 from FEMA by providing a false address in Moss Point, Mississippi, and claiming hurricane damage at that address. At the time Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Fontan was living in Scott County, Mississippi.
The Fontans are scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee on December 15, 2006 at 9:00 a.m. The maximum sentence for these defendants is 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Lawrence Creed of Gulfport, Mississippi, pled guilty today to submitting a false claim to FEMA for Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance funds and rental housing benefits in which he provided an address in Gulfport, Mississippi where he no longer lived. Creed received a total of $4,358.00 as a result of his false claim. In addition to the claim in his application that the address was his primary residence, Creed produced documents to FEMA, such as his driver’s license and power bill, listing the address, even though he had moved out more than a year before Hurricane Katrina. After confessing to FEMA investigators that he did not live at the address, he continued to pursue his claim for benefits by writing a letter stating that he lived at that address when Hurricane Katrina hit.
Creed faces a maximum sentence of 5 years of in prison, and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set for Creed.
In September, 2005, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales created the national Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, designed to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud, identity theft, procurement fraud and insurance fraud. The Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force - chaired by Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Alice S. Fisher, includes members from the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Postal Inspector’s Office and the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, among others.
Pursuant to the Justice Department initiative, a local Katrina Fraud Task Force, consisting of over 20 Federal and State law enforcement agencies, was formed in the Southern District of
Mississippi to pursue and prosecute individuals who engage in fraud associated with the hurricanes.
If anyone has information concerning possible fraud being committed during the post-Katrina recovery effort, please call either the DHS-OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or the FBI Fraud Hotline at 1-800-225-5324.