A jury determined that Bryan Michael Beets of Vicksburg, Miss., used his ex-wife's Long Beach, Miss., address to obtain Hurricane Katrina assistance from FEMA. The jury also found that Beets received $360 and 12 nights of hotel accommodations in Texas from the American Red Cross utilizing his ex-wife's address.
Beets' case was the first FEMA fraud case to go to trial in Mississippi. There have been at least 25 guilty pleas to hurricane-related fraud in the southern part of the state, according to Sheila Wilbanks, a spokesperson for the Justice Department's Southern District of Mississippi.
Beets was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release. Beets also was ordered to pay $3,854 in restitution to FEMA and the American Red Cross.
Beets was indicted on Oct. 25, 2005, as a result of a joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance provided by the U.S. Marshal.
In September 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force to crack down on disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud, identity theft, procurement fraud and insurance fraud. The task force, chaired by Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, includes members from the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspector's Office and the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, among others.
"The prosecution and sentence today show the continuing commitment of the Katrina Fraud Task Force to uphold the U.S. Attorney General's mandate of zero tolerance of Katrina fraud," U.S. Attorney Lampton said on Oct. 2.
The Justice Department advises anyone with information concerning possible fraud being committed during the post-Katrina recovery effort to call either the DHS-OIG Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or the FBI Fraud Hotline at (800) 225-5324.
Two FEMA Employees Arrested for FEMA Fraud
In other Hurricane Katrina fraud news, authorities have arrested FEMA employees Duane Adams and Emily Fuqua on charges of making false statements to FEMA for Hurricane Katrina assistance.
According to the criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, FEMA employee Duane Adams filed a disaster assistance application with FEMA claiming his primary residence was a houseboat in Moss Point, Miss., which had been destroyed by the hurricane. However, Adams was not the owner of the houseboat, authorities say.
Adams and Fuqua created and submitted to FEMA false documentation to portray Adams as the owner, and when a FEMA representative sought to verify ownership of the houseboat, Fuqua falsely identified herself over the phone as the person who sold the houseboat to Adams, according to authorities.
As a result of the fraudulent application and scheme, Adams received approximately $25,500 from FEMA in disaster assistance, according to authorities.