USA – According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, four of the six people indicted by a grand jury falsley claimed they owned homes which were destroyed by those 2018 wildfires, and they received anywhere from just over 32-hundred dollars to more than 26-thousand dollars in payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Two of them also were given FEMA trailers.
According to U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, charges were filed against each of the following:
Deborah Laughlin, 64, falsely claimed 7209 Skyway, Apt 18 in Paradise as her primary residence and received $9,674.70 in benefits and a FEMA trailer. According to court documents, on Nov. 3, 2018, Laughlin was arrested at her residence in Willows and remained in jail until Nov. 13, 2018, which was several days after the Camp Fire began.
Evan Palmer, 30, of Chico, falsely claimed 4440 Clark Road, #1 in Paradise as his primary residence and received $26,490.67 for his travel trailer that was destroyed in the fire. His primary residence, however, was in Chico.
Kristy Marie Tapp, 34, falsely claimed 5152 Pentz Road in Paradise as her primary residence and received $3,263.91 in benefits. She filed her application for assistance after the Butte County Sheriff had issued a public notification identifying a couple, aged 67 and 70, as deceased victims of the fire. Tapp falsely claimed they were her landlords.
Patrick Prigmore, 54, falsely claimed 1040 Pearson Road in Paradise as his primary residence and received $12,837.71 in benefits and a FEMA trailer.
The two remaining indictments are still sealed, and more people may be indicted as the investigation continues. Each of the defendants faces up to 30 years of prison time and a fine of as much $250,000 if convicted.
“Disaster fraud re-victimizes communities devastated physically and emotionally by natural disaster by diverting federal funds from communities and stealing from the victims with significant needs. This is why the FBI is committed to working closely with our local, state, and federal partners to identify and investigate allegations of fraud related to disaster recovery and we want people to both protect themselves and report fraud as it is discovered,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office.