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Press Release

Livingston Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud in Connection with Major Disaster Declarations and Theft of Disaster Assistance Funds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Louisiana

U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, announced today that ERVIN PAYNE, JR., age 44, of Livingston, Louisiana, pled guilty to fraud in connection with a major disaster declaration and theft of $42,365.31 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 his conviction, PAYNE 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, transportation expenses, 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 admissions made as part of his guilty plea, PAYNE submitted false applications for FEMA assistance for a Livingston residence that he did not own at the time of the March 2016 and August 2016 floods.  In his applications, he also asserted that, because of the damage to the residence, he needed transportation and rental assistance.

U.S. Attorney Fremin stated, “Federal disaster assistance funds are available and owed to individuals affected by a disaster, and who meet the eligibility criteria to receive specific benefits available from the Government.  Assistance is designed to return eligible applicants to the lives they lived before being victimized by disaster.  Fraud in connection with disaster benefits not only results in wasting valuable government assets to process false claims and monetary loss to FEMA; it also delays the distribution of funds to authorized disaster victims.  My office, together with the National Center for Disaster Fraud and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, will continue to hold accountable those who seek to steal disaster assistance funds and impair the Federal Government’s ability to assist true victims of a disaster.”

Special Agent in Charge David Green, Houston Field Office, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, stated, “The DHS OIG continues to successfully investigate disaster fraud and will continue to partner with U.S. Attorney Offices to seek justice. Funds stolen from United States’ taxpayers through fraudulent means deprive deserving recipients and will not be tolerated.”

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  Learn more about the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at

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.

Updated July 24, 2019

Disaster Fraud