Contractor Sentenced To 5 Years Probation For Making False Statements And Theft Of Government Funds
U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that MICHAEL SPEARS, age 53, of New Orleans, was sentenced to five (5) years probation by the Honorable U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman today for making false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and theft of government funds in violation of 18 USC § 641.
According to court documents, SPEARS was a contractor for homeowners eligible to receive grants funded by FEMA through the Home Mitigation Grant Program, also known as the HMGP. These grants would allow homeowners to elevate their houses to prevent catastrophic damage from future natural disasters. In 2011 and 2012, each elevation grant from HMGP was worth up to $100,000.00 with contractors and homeowners being entitled to an advanced payment of 80% of the grant prior to a contractor doing any elevation work. The HMGP expected homeowners receiving HMGP grants to commit their $30,000.00 Road Home elevation grant to the total cost of the elevation.
However, as of 2013, SPEARS had still failed to do any work on at least 3 properties for which he had received $118,000.00 in federal funds, including the two properties for which he had received the Road Home elevation funds as down payment. Despite demands, SPEARS has not returned the funds to the government or the homeowners.