Baton Rouge Man Pleads Guilty to Theft of Disaster Assistance Funds
Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson, who also serves as the Acting Executive Director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, announced today that Joe W. Jones, 65, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to theft of $13,807 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds in relation to the 2016 Baton Rouge flooding.
Following the 2016 flooding that affected 12 parishes in south Louisiana, FEMA funds were available to people who had emergency needs for food, shelter, and clothing because of the flood. In order to qualify for assistance based on home ownership, an individual must have, among other things, resided in the home at the time of the storm.
On Oct. 3, Jones entered a plea of guilty to theft of government funds. According to documents submitted to the court, in August 2016, Jones filed a fraudulent claim with FEMA seeking disaster assistance funds for a home in Baton Rouge that he claimed was his primary residence at the time of the storm. At the time of the storm, however, Jones was residing elsewhere and was renting his home to a tenant, whose own FEMA application as a renter was delayed because of Jones’ fraudulent claim.
Acting U.S. Attorney Amundson said, “Unfortunately, Louisiana is not only targeted by storms that cause extensive damage to lives and property, it is also targeted by fraudsters who seek to steal disaster assistance funds that are intended for true victims. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, together with the National Center for Disaster Fraud and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, will work tirelessly to catch individuals who submit fraudulent claims for disaster assistance and ensure that such assistance funds are available to individuals truly victimized by disasters.”
Special Agent in Charge David Green, Houston Field Office, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said, “We all suffer when federal assistance programs are undermined by fraud. This defendant’s conviction should send a clear message that our Department will not tolerate any type of fraudulent activity, and we will relentlessly pursue those responsible for criminal acts related to disaster assistance funds.”
Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at http://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.
This matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Pugliese.