A 30-year-old woman has been sentenced to five years' probation for tricking federal officials into paying her and her mother tens of thousands of dollars by saying they lived in Louisiana and suffered property damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when they actually resided in government-subsidized housing in Brooklyn Park.
The sentence for Vianca McCarter, of Kenner, La., on Tuesday in federal court in St. Paul also requires that she pay $33,502 in restitution and serve 100 hours of community service.
"This is a case involving the theft of sorely needed disaster assistance for individuals who truly were the victims of Hurricane Katrina's devastating destruction," federal prosecutors said in a presentence court filing. "[McCarter's] offense diverted or reduced disaster assistance funds that should have gone to those victims."
In pleading guilty in October to theft of public money:
McCarter admitted that on Sept. 12, 2005, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck, she told the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that she lived in New Orleans when the storm hit, her residence and personal property had been damaged, and she needed emergency rental assistance benefits.
In fact, she lived in housing with her mother that was subsidized by the Metropolitan Council from October 2004 through November 2009.
Based on Vianca McCarter's application for help, FEMA gave her $34,102 over two years.
Her mother, Rena McCarter, 62, also of Kenner, netted $8,600 in her false application for help. She has pleaded guilty to the same charge and awaits sentencing.
Vianca McCarter's attorney, Mary M. Mateer, argued in the defense's presentence filing that her client should not be imprisoned, noting that she has four children, one of whom has special needs, and has financial problems and physical and mental health difficulties.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482