TAMPA, Florida – A Florida woman was convicted of fraudulently obtaining FEMA disaster relief for Hurricane Irma.
A federal jury found 37-year-old Karen Latrice Houston of Lakeland, Florida guilty of three counts of theft of government funds.
Houston now faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison on each count. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to evidence presented at trial, in September 2017, Houston filed a false application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain disaster relief benefits following Hurricane Irma.
In the application, Houston falsely claimed that a home located in a Lakeland mobile home park was her primary residence, and that the home was damaged during Hurricane Irma.
However, Houston had been evicted from the mobile home park in early 2017.
In connection with her application for disaster aid, Houston misrepresented to a FEMA inspector that she still resided at the address that she had listed on her FEMA application.
As a result of those misrepresentations, Houston obtained $21,875.57 in FEMA funds and benefits to which she was not entitled.
The FEMA funds and benefits Houston received were intended for critical needs, home repair, replacement of personal property, and shelter for persons displaced from their residence due to Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Irma was the costliest hurricane in Florida history that caused over $50 billion in damage.