New Jersey Woman Sentenced in FEMA Disaster Scam

June 20, 2013

An Atlantic City, N.J., woman who stole more than $15,000 in benefit money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after a 2010 nor’easter was sentenced Monday to more than two years in prison.

Debbie Hicks also was ordered to make full restitution and serve three years of supervised release once she’s freed from prison. She had pleaded guilty to disaster benefits fraud and making false statements to federal housing authorities.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said the 52-year-old Hicks sought rental assistance after the March 2010 storm, claiming her apartment in Atlantic City was uninhabitable. After a FEMA inspector determined the apartment was damaged, Hicks was awarded $923 per month in rental assistance.

But in her application, she failed to disclose that her rent was being paid for with public funds. She also admitted that while defrauding FEMA, she lied to housing authorities by failing to tell them she was getting benefit money, had a prior criminal record and had used other names and Social Security numbers.

Hicks was also ordered to pay federal housing authorities $7,200 in restitution.

During the storm, about 400 Atlantic City residents had to leave their homes along the oceanfront.

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