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Port Arthur Man Guilty of FEMA Fraud Related to Hurricane Harvey

BEAUMONT, Texas – A Port Arthur man has pleaded guilty to hurricane-related fraud in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.

Jose Luis Carrillo, 50, pleaded guilty to an information charging him with fraud in relation to a major disaster or emergency benefits today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith F. Giblin.

“Defrauding federal programs is always an egregious act,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.  “Disaster relief fraud is even more serious because of the limited nature of the funds intended to assist people in their time of greatest need.”

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari stated, “This investigation and resulting plea demonstrates our continued commitment to identify and investigate all allegations of fraud to protect the integrity of FEMA programs funded by the taxpayer.   Theft of funds from DHS programs intended to help those in need will not be tolerated.”

According to information presented in court, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas in August 2017, causing extensive damage to the region.  On Sep. 21, 2017, Carrillo applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a damaged dwelling located on Luis Drive in Port Arthur.  Carrillo stated that he owned the damaged dwelling and that it was his primary residence. Carrillo received a total of $23,619.70 in FEMA assistance for rental expenses and home repairs.  The actual residents of the residence also submitted an application, but were denied benefits.  An investigation determined that the actual residents had lived at the location from July 2017 until they moved out at the end of August 2017, after Hurricane Harvey struck.  Carrillo admitted that he fraudulently represented the home was his primary residence to obtain FEMA funds.

Carrillo faces up to 30 years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

This case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Grove.