Home Houston Press Releases 2009 Two Indicted for Hurricane Rita-Related Fraud

Two Indicted for Hurricane Rita-Related Fraud

U.S. Attorney’s Office December 17, 2009
  • Eastern District of Texas (409) 839-2538

BEAUMONT, TX—U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced today that two individuals have been indicted in separate cases involving Hurricane Rita-related fraud in the Eastern District of Texas. 

SHERRI LYNETTE MAGEE, 40, of Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, was indicted on Dec. 16, 2009, and charged with Mail Fraud and Filing False Claims. 

According to the indictment, in October 2005, Magee is alleged to have submitted an application to FEMA for disaster assistance falsely claiming that her primary residence was in Cleveland, Texas, and that it had had sustained damage from Hurricane Rita, and that Rita had also caused damage to her personal property. An investigation revealed that Magee did not reside at the Cleveland residence at the time of the hurricane and was not entitled to disaster assistance as she claimed. Magee received $2,000 in disaster assistance from FEMA based on her false statement. A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment on Dec. 16, 2009 charging her with mail fraud and making a false statement. If convicted, Magee faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

In a separate case, JERMAINE DARNELL PALMER, 34, of Port Arthur, Texas, was indicted on Dec. 16, 2009, and charged with Mail Fraud, Filing False Claims, and Fraudulent Use of a Social Security Number.

According to the indictment, in October 2005, Palmer is alleged to have submitted an application to FEMA for disaster assistance falsely claiming that he owned property on 34th Street in Port Arthur, Texas, that the property was his primary residence and that the property had been damaged in Hurricane Rita, and the property had been rendered unliveable from the storm. Palmer also claimed that his personal property had been damaged during the hurricane. Palmer received three checks from FEMA totaling $6,622.22 based on his false statement. A federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment on Dec. 16, 2009 charging Palmer with mail fraud, filing a false statement, and four counts of fraudulent use of a social security number. If convicted, Palmer faces up to 20 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 U.S. Postal Service and are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall L. Fluke.

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.

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