U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, announced today that U.S. Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick sentenced RENATA FOREMAN, age 39, of Independence, Louisiana, to serve 111 months in federal prison following her convictions on multiple wire fraud and aggravated identity theft counts related to the 2016 flooding in Baton Rouge. The Court further sentenced FOREMAN to 5 years of supervised release following her term of imprisonment.
Following the 2016 flooding, which affected 20 parishes in south Louisiana, FEMA funds were available to people who became unemployed because of the flood. The funds were administered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission in the form of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”). In total, FOREMANsubmitted approximately 55 fraudulent applications using stolen identities.
At trial, the jury heard testimony and saw evidence that FOREMAN kept logs and notebooks containing personally identifiable information of numerous people which she used in her scheme. The evidence also showed that FOREMAN submitted fraudulent claims from multiple locations in New Orleans and the surrounding area. During the commission of the crime, FOREMAN was residing in a federal halfway house stemming from her 2013 convictions for mail fraud, theft of government funds, and identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Fremin said, “This conviction and sentence serve notice that our office and the National Center for Disaster Fraud take seriously crimes involving disaster relief fraud. Those, like this defendant, whose criminal behavior interferes with tax dollars of hard-working citizens will always be a top priority of this office. I want to thank our prosecutors, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, whose joint efforts brought this defendant to justice.”
Special Agent in Charge Eric J. Rommal, FBI New Orleans stated, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with our partners at the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, remains dedicated to combating fraud in Louisiana. Foreman attempted to exploit the 2016 flood for personal gain utilizing stolen identities. It is our hope that this case serves as a warning that the FBI will vigorously investigate those attempting to defraud others in the wake of disaster.”
Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before trusting anyone purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims. Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by live operators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to email@example.com. Learn more about the National Center for Disaster Fraud at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud and watch a public service announcement here. Tips for the public on how to avoid being victimized of fraud are at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/tips-avoiding-fraudulent-charitable-contribution-schemes.
This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and the FBI with substantial assistance provided by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Smyczek and Fred Menner of the Middle District of Louisiana.