In August 2012, a wildfire broke out near Mannford, Okla., and spread swiftly across town destroying nearly 80 square miles of homes, buildings and dry vegetation. According to an article in Tulsa World, as affected residents began to rebuild their lives following the disastrous event, a Mannford woman deceptively took advantage of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) benefits.
The story states that the 42-year-old woman claimed her primary residence had been destroyed by the widespread fire. It turns out that the home, which was really owned by the woman’s mother, was unoccupied, rundown and did not have utility service. (Sounds like a fraud shack to me.) As a result of her false claims, the fraudster received more than $31,000 in disaster aid.
The woman pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agency. She has not been sentenced yet, but could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
When disasters like this one strike, it is a prime opportunity for swindlers to take advantage of government funds meant for deserving beneficiaries, who need a helping hand to get back on their feet. In this particular case, the government was able to douse this disaster fraud fire before it had a chance to spread, preventing more money from being stolen out of the pockets of honest tax-paying citizens.