Woman pleads guilty to FEMA fraud

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

A Ferriday woman entered a guilty plea Wednesday to charges of fraudulently obtaining FEMA relief funds, U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington announced.

Debbie Anderson, 37, was indicted in October on charges of conspiracy, theft of mail matter and theft of public money.

Testimony at Wednesday&8217;s hearing before U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell in Alexandria revealed that Anderson befriended an evacuee at a shelter following Hurricane Katrina and allowed that person to use her Doty Road address to receive mail.

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A package containing two disaster relief checks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived for the evacuee. Anderson forged the evacuee&8217;s signature and took the checks.

She bought a car with one of the checks from a local car dealer and cashed the other, with no identification, at a Jonesville bank.

The two checks were worth a combined $4,358.

Anderson faces up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Sentencing in federal court is at the discretion of the judge, however, meaning Drell is not obligated by the sentencing guidelines.

Parole has been abolished from the federal system.

Anderson is one of 19 people who have been charged with violations relating to FEMA relief funds.

There are more than 100 fraud investigations ongoing in the Western District of Louisiana, which includes Concordia Parish.

The district&8217;s cases are being jointly investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alexandria Resident Agency.