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Aug. 9, 2010

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Indictment brings to 106 the total number of persons charged in the SDTX with defrauding the government through hurricane disaster relief programs

(HOUSTON) - A Houston woman, indicted in the Southern District of Texas for making a false claim for disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina and multiple false claims for tax refunds has been arrested, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Sybil Suarez, 41, surrendered to federal authorities this morning and is expected to make her initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge earlier today and has been ordered released on bond pending trial.

Suarez is charged in a eight-count indictment with making false claims for benefits to the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and with filing false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The indictment was returned in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010.  

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, the indictment alleges Suarez, while in Houston, filed a claim for disaster relief, misrepresenting her primary residence was in Kenner, Louisiana. The indictment also alleges that Suarez filed seven false returns with the IRS claiming refunds totaling $52,936.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by agents with the Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General and IRS Criminal Investigations.

This case was brought as part of this District’s partnership with the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), a nationwide initiative to protect available funds and assistance for those victims of both natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and the recent Gulf Oil Spill.  If you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, you can contact the NCDF by either calling the hotline at (866) 720-5721, fadxing the hotline at (225) 334-4707, or emailing at or in writing to National Center for Disaster Fraud, Baton Rouge, LA  70821-4909.

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


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