Woman owes FEMA nearly $20K

Ex-dispatcher must repay stolen money

GULFPORT

A Gautier woman avoided prison time by agreeing to repay thousands of dollars of disaster assistance she stole from FEMA for 18 months after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden on Wednesday gave Jodie A. Renner three years’ probation and 60 hours of community service provided she repay $19,556.15 immediately.

Renner, 38, was a dispatcher for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department in October 2006 when she used the agency’s fax machine to send FEMA paperwork with false statements and fraudulent rental receipts.

According to a 15-count indictment, Renner falsely claimed the hurricane displaced her from an apartment on Dubarry Drive in Gautier. She didn’t live there when the hurricane struck.

Court papers show she also faxed bogus receipts to FEMA from an unspecified business in Gulfport in December 2005 and from Magnolia Oaks apartment complex in Gautier in June 2006.

She left her job with the Sheriff’s Department in April 2007, a spokesperson said.

Renner has remained free on bond since she was charged in November. The charges included mail fraud and wire fraud. A month later, she accepted a plea agreement to theft of public money by filing false rental receipts.

She faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case was prosecuted by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

By ROBIN FITZGERALD – rfitzgerald@sunherald.com

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