Metro-East Couple Sentenced for Katrina Scam
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EAST. ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Latonya Robinson, age 41, of Washington Park, Illinois, was sentenced to a 21 month term of imprisonment, to be followed by a three year term of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the count of $31,093.67. Her spouse, Jesse L. Robinson, age 56, also of W ashington Park, was sentenced to a four month term of imprisonment, to be followed by a three year term of supervised release, with up to the first 120 days to be served in a community confinement center,a nd was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $19,813.67.
On August 18, 2010, Latonya and Jesse Robinson were charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and three counts of Mail Fraud in connection with their application for, and receipt of, benefits intended for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Latonya Robinson was also charged with one count of Making False Statements to United States Postal Inspectors who were investigating the Hurricane Katrina fraud and with four counts of Making False Statements to the United States Department of Agriculture in connection with her collection of food stamp benefits. The couple pleaded guilty to the charges on November 8, 2010.The indictment alleged that Latonya and Jesse Robinson falsely represented themselves to be victims of the Hurricane Katrina disaster; that they applied for aid and financial assistance intended to benefit those who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina both from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and other sources; that defendants caused FEMA to mail checks to defendants
via the United States Mails and that defendants caused payments to be made to them by other organizations and entities, including local charities and the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department.
During the investigation, Latonya Robinson lied to Postal Inspectors when she stated that she and her family evacuated Biloxi, Mississippi, due to the approach of Hurricane Katrina. In fact, Latonya and Jesse Robinson were living in Arkansas at the time of Hurricane Katrina, well outside the path of the storm, and were totally unaffected by the disaster.
The amount of loss to FEMA was $6,186.00, and various other organizations that provided Hurricane Katrina aid suffered total losses in the amount of $13,627.67. The loss to the food stamp program was $11,280.
United States Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton stated, “Individuals who steal from federally funded programs are sometimes under the mistaken impression that if they get caught, their conduct will have no consequence. Latonya and Jesse Robinson asked the Court for sentences of probation, and those requests were denied. The sentences of incarceration imposed upon Latonya and Jesse Robinson should serve as a reminder to others who plunder from programs with limited resources and sacred purposes.
During these tough financial times in particular, taxpayers are increasingly intolerant of this type of morally reprehensible, parasitic behavior. The Financial Litigation Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office will make every effort to collect these debts from these defendants.” The investigation was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service; the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General; and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Office of Inspector General – Bureau of Investigations.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne M. Garrison.
Additionally, during the time period of 2006 through 2009, Latonya Robinson defrauded the federally funded food stamp program, which is administered by the State of Illinois, by failing to disclose her husband’s income and presence in her household and by submitting false documentation to the Illinois Department of Human Services.