Ex-FEMA worker, cousin convicted of fraud

By ROBIN FITZGERALD – rfitzgerald@sunherald.com

GULFPORT

Former FEMA worker Lashonda Booker and her cousin have to repay more than $720,000 in disaster-relief money intended for Katrina victims.

U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola sentenced both to prison Thursday for conspiring to commit wire fraud.

U.S. Attorney Donald Burkhalter has called it the largest theft of public money in Katrina-related fraud cases.

The judge gave Booker six years and 10 months to serve and sentenced Peggy Hilton to nine years and six months. He also ordered restitution and, after prison time, probation for five years and 100 hours of community service.

They owe $721,212.23.

The women stole the money between October 2005 and May 2009. Booker was transferred to FEMA’s Biloxi office from Jackson County in 2006.

Booker admitted using a federal database to get the names of hurricane victims who had applied for disaster relief. Hilton called FEMA claiming to be those people and changed their banking information.

The judge on Thursday ordered drug and alcohol test for both. Booker was released to await a date to report to prison. Records show Hilton tested positive. The judge ordered Hilton taken into custody.

Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/04/29/2142069/ex-fema-worker-cousin-convicted.html#ixzz0maNbwrRJ

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