Bridge City Women Arrested in Separate FEMA Fraud Cases
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 08, 2009|
BEAUMONT, TX—U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced today that two Bridge City, Texas women have been arrested for hurricane-related fraud in the Eastern District of Texas.
SHEILA M. BRACK, 48, and JEANETTE McKINLEY, 43, were arrested today and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin for arraignment on separate charges of making a false statement, theft of public money, mail fraud and wire fraud.
According to information from prosecutors, Brack knowingly submitted an application to FEMA for disaster assistance falsely claiming that her primary residence in Bridge City, Texas had sustained damage from Hurricane Ike, rendering it unlivable, and that Ike had also caused damage to her personal property. In fact, the address Brack gave to FEMA was not her primary residence immediately before or during Hurricane Ike. An investigation revealed that Brack was living at a different location than the address she claimed and that the Bridge City residence had the utilities disconnected for a year before Hurricane Ike made landfall. Brack received $28,800 in disaster assistance from FEMA based on her false statement. A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment on Nov. 18, 2009 charging Brack with making a false statement, theft of public money, mail fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, Brack faces up to 30 years in federal prison.
In a separate case, prosecutors allege that McKinley knowingly submitted an application to FEMA for disaster assistance falsely claiming that she was the owner of a home in Bridge City and that Hurricane Ike had caused damage to the home and her personal property. In fact, McKinley was well aware that Wells Fargo Bank had foreclosed on the residence on Aug. 5, 2008, more than a month before Hurricane Ike, and McKinley was not the owner of the residence or entitled to receive disaster assistance. McKinley received $28,800 in disaster assistance from FEMA based on her false statement. A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment on Nov. 18, 2009 charging McKinley with making a false statement, theft of public money, mail fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, McKinley faces up to 30 years in federal prison.
In September 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, designed to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud, identity theft, procurement fraud and insurance fraud. The Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force includes members of the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, among others.
These cases are being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James E. Peacock.
It is important to note that an indictment should not be considered as evidence of guilt and that all persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.