A Louisiana man has pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relief funds intended for victims of the state’s catastrophic 2016 flood season.
Baton Rouge resident Joe W. Jones, 65, pleaded guilty to stealing the $13,806 Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson is charging Jones with filing a fraudulent disaster relief claim after he claimed that one of his flooded properties was his primary residence. In reality, Jones was renting the property out at the time of the storms, and his own claims caused the more immediate claim of the current tenants to be delayed.
The historic flooding in Louisiana decimated approximately 20 parishes and damaged 40,000 homes in 2016, with a death toll in the double digits.
In the aftermath of the floods, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it would be priority for his department to combat any fraudulent relief requests.
“The generosity and outpouring of support from fellow Louisiana residents and businesses have been amazing and humbling,” Landry said at the time. “Our office is doing all we can to ensure relief donations actually support those affected by the flooding.”
The AG even teamed with the popular crowd funding website GoFundMe to help verify relief requests.
“Louisiana is experiencing monumental devastation and tragedy,” Landry said. “We are grateful for the efforts of GoFundMe to make sure donations benefit our struggling neighbors — not fraudulent individuals or organizations.”
A judge has yet to schedule a sentencing hearing for Jones.
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