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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Texas

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Paige, Texas, Man Pleads Guilty To Making A False Claim To FEMA In Connection With Relief Efforts After Labor Day 2011 Wildfires In Central Texas

On Monday, March 4, Manuel Hernandez, age 53, appeared in federal court and pleaded guilty to violating the federal False Claims Act, Title 18 U.S. Code Section 287, announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and James K. Beauchamp, Regional Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG). This is the latest development in one of four pending criminal cases alleging fraudulent applications for benefits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in connection with relief efforts following the Labor Day 2011 wildfires in Bastrop and other parts of Central Texas.

In court, Hernandez admitted that he made a false claim for housing benefits to FEMA in the wake of the
wildfires in September 2011. When Hernandez applied for the benefits, he told FEMA that his primary
residence had burned in the fires. The Paige, Texas, home that Hernandez identified as his residence had
actually burned, but Hernandez was not living there when the wildfires destroyed it and had not lived there for a number of months. Hernandez was living in Austin at the time. As a result of the false claim, Hernandez received over $30,000 from FEMA.

Conviction under the False Claims Act subjects Hernandez to a possible prison term of up to five years,
repayment of the money he obtained illegally from FEMA, and a fine up to $250,000. Hernandez will be
sentenced by United States District Judge Sam Sparks.

This case was investigated by DHS OIG agents. Assistant United States Attorney Alan Buie is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

Updated December 15, 2014