A Florida woman pleaded guilty Friday to charges of disaster assistance fraud involving FEMA benefits she said she needed after Hurricane Irma slammed Fernandina Beach in 2017.
Jessica Ann Smothers, 35, faces up to 30 years in federal prison and payment of restitution to the United States in the amount of $13,838.70, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Smothers filed a claim regarding damages to her home following Category 4 Irma’s Florida landfall on Sept. 10.
She maintained that she was displaced from her home and was “forced to live in a tent, and subsequently rented another home in Fernandina Beach.”
FEMA reimbursed Smothers in the amount of $13,838.70 to aide her in critical needs assistance, personal property damage, and rental assistance.
Investigators later found Smothers’ claims were not only false, but she had been living in her home through and after Irma.
A sentencing date has not been selected yet, and Smothers remains in custody.
Hurricane Irma was the fifth costliest hurricane in U.S. history leaving behind $50 billion worth of damage in its wake, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation estimates more than $11 billion in insured losses were caused by the hurricane.
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