Texas Man Gets Prison in Hurricane Fraud Plot

A Texas man who owned a construction company has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in scheme to embezzle federal disaster loan payments from victims of Hurricane Ike.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi in Lake Charles also on Thursday ordered Mark Shorten, 51, of Splendora, Texas, to pay $126,300 in restitution.

Shorten, formerly of Sulphur, La., and his wife, Sherrie Shorten, pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy charges.

Federal prosecutors say the couple plotted to embezzle money from victims of the 2008 hurricane after helping them secure a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration to repair damage to their home.

Sherrie Shorten, who owned a financial company, allegedly told the family to open a joint bank account with her to deposit the SBA money and pay her husband for repair work. Prosecutors said the couple drained the account without finishing the work on the family’s house.

Sherrie Shorten is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9.

“Hurricanes wreak havoc on citizens’ lives, but when criminals like the Shortens are willing to take advantage of victims who are attempting to rebuild their lives, it makes the horrendous situation worse,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a statement.