N.Y. Woman Charged for Fraud for Receiving Katrina Aid

March 24, 2006

A New York woman who was living in Brooklyn when Hurricane Katrina struck has been charged with grand larceny for allegedly claiming she lived in Mississippi and was a victim of the storm, prosecutors said Thursday.

Authorities also charged Donna Fenton with welfare fraud for allegedly claiming her 14-year-old daughter lived with her when the child was actually adopted by another family in 1994, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said in a statement.

Fenton pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Wednesday. In addition to the grand larceny and welfare fraud charges, she is accused of offering a false instrument for filing. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Prosecutors say Fenton applied for Hurricane Katrina assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, claiming she lived on South 21st Street in Biloxi, Miss. Investigators determined that there is no 21st Street in Biloxi, and financial records showed Fenton was living in Brooklyn when the hurricane struck.

She allegedly received more than $3,000 in funding.

The welfare fraud investigation came as a result of an internal complaint, prosecutors said.

Fenton was the subject of a New York Times feature on March 8, describing her frustrations in obtaining federal aid. The newspaper ran an editor’s note Thursday saying it “did not conduct adequate interviews or public record checks to verify Ms. Fenton’s account, including her claim that she had lived in Biloxi. Such checks would have uncovered a fraud conviction and raised serious questions about the truthfulness of her account.”

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