Denham Springs Woman Pleads Guilty to Theft of Disaster Assistance Funds
U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, announced today that LISA ELIZABETH CORONA, 37, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, pled guilty to theft of $30,644 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds in relation to the 2016 flooding that affected numerous local areas, to include Livingston Parish. As a result of her conviction, CORONA faces a significant term of imprisonment, fine, and period of supervised release.
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.
According to the indictment, CORONA is alleged to have submitted a false application for FEMA assistance for a Denham Springs residence where she did not reside at the time of the August 2016 flooding. In her application, she is also alleged to have lied in asserting that, because of the damage to the Denham Springs residence, she had emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
U.S. Attorney Fremin stated, “The acts of this defendant, and those like her, are despicable and likely deprived honest, hard-working victims of the flood of benefits and services they so desperately needed. This conviction should send a strong message to would-be fraudsters who target victims of natural disasters and federal funding that they too will become targets. My office along with the National Center for Disaster Fraud and our federal, state, and local partners will continue our already robust efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute those who seek to steal disaster assistance funds from the Federal Government or from our people. I am especially grateful to our prosecutors and staff and to the investigators at DHS-OIG who made today’s conviction possible.”
Special Agent in Charge David Green, Houston Field Office, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, stated, “The DHS OIG will not tolerate those who attempt to exploit natural disasters. False claims like these slow the process for those who actually need help and the false claim is stealing money from the hardworking US Taxpayer. The DHS OIG will continue to investigate these false claims.”
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.