Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
Alabama woman gets two years for FEMA fraud
2011 AL tornado damage
A federal judge in Birmingham, AL, sentenced a local woman to two years in prison for lying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get disaster benefits after the string of devastating tornadoes hit the state last April.
The judge sentenced Libra Nikosha Green, 32, for falsely telling a FEMA representative last May that she had lost her home, her father, and her baby daughter in the twisters, said an FBI statement on Feb. 23.
Green had faced a possible five year sentence.
The eastern half of the U.S. experienced the largest tornado outbreak in history between April 25 to 28, 2011. Although 359 tornados roared across southern, midwestern and northeastern states during the period, Alabama was especially hard-hit. Almost 360 people were killed in the outbreak across the nation, with Alabama recording 239 of the fatalities. FEMA poured millions into aid for state recovery in the ensuing months. Along with Green’s case, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General are investigating other fraud cases in the wake of the storms.
Green pleaded guilty last October to one count of making a false statement to the government. In her plea agreement, Green acknowledged that she tried to get disaster benefits by telephoning FEMA and claiming that she lived in a house on Cherry Avenue in Birmingham that was destroyed by a tornado and that the tornado killed her father and daughter. Green, according to the plea, didn’t live in the Cherry Avenue house, her father had died about two months before the storm, and the tornado did not kill her daughter.
“This defendant made false and outrageous claims in an attempt to parlay the community’s devastation and distress into a financial windfall for herself,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. “My office will continue to prosecute cases of fraud related to disaster benefits. We want to deter fraud and punish the people willing to commit crimes in order to take money intended to help tornado survivors,” she said.