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April 7, 2010

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Indictment brings to 104 the total number of persons charged in the SDTX with defrauding the government through hurricane disaster relief programs

(HOUSTON) - A New Orleans woman, indicted for conspiring to make false claims for disaster relief with multiple federal agencies following Hurricane Katrina, has been arrested, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Shawanda Thomas, 36, was arrested this morning at her home in New Orleans. 

Thomas is charged in a two-count indictment with making false claims and statements to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) in connection with requests for disaster relief assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The indictment was returned in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas on Wednesday, March 31, 2010.  

The indictment alleges that shortly after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, Thomas, while in Houston, filed a claim for disaster unemployment assistance from the DOL, misrepresenting that she had been employed at Methodist Hospital in New Orleans. The indictment also alleges that Thomas requested and received an SBA disaster home loan for an address where she did not reside.

Thomas is expected to make her initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge in New Orleans today where the issue of bond is expected to be addressed. The case will be prosecuted in Houston.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by agents with the SBA - Office of Inspector General and the DOL – Office of Inspector General.  

The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas is a member of the Department of Justice's Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force created by the Department of Justice to deter, detect and prosecute individuals who try to take advantage of the Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita disasters. The task force is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement investigating agencies and the United States Attorney’s Offices in the Gulf Coast region and nationwide.

Anyone suspecting criminal activity involving disaster assistance programs can make an anonymous report by calling the toll-free Hurricane Relief Fraud Hotline, 1-866-720-5721, 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. Information can also be emailed to the inspector general at or sent by surface mail, with as many details as possible, to Department of Homeland Security, Attn: Office of Inspector General, Hotline, Washington, DC. 20528.  

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney F. Andino Reynal.  


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