Jay Reeves/AP

Defendants Admit Defrauding FEMA

September 25, 2008 03:40 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Two men pleaded guilty in federal court for filing false claims for FEMA aid after Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA pays the price of false claims

On Wednesday, James Martin, 58, and Elgin Mathis, 43, pleaded guilty to making false claims to FEMA for Hurricane Katrina aid.

Martin was charged after authorities noticed 10 applications for assistance under the same address but filed with different names. If convicted, Martin faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Mathis filed an online application for disaster assistance from Hurricane Katrina. He listed his address in Louisiana, although Mathis actually resides in Houston. He also faces a $250,000 fine and a maximum of five years in prison. 

Martin and Mathis are just two examples of individuals who filed false claims after Katrina and Rita. In December 2006, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that FEMA had squandered millions of government funds on fraudulent aid claims. According to the report, FEMA paid $20 million in double claims and up to $17 million in rent payments to people living in government-sponsored housing.

By contrast, FEMA has withheld assistance in the wake of Hurricane Ike. According to Houston’s ABC affiliate, “FEMA says since Hurricane Ike, they have received more than 589,000 applications for aid here in Texas. While 250,000 applications are still pending, just under 11,400 have been approved. An overwhelming 154,000 have been denied."

Related Topic: Disasters bring fraudulent claims


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