Sometimes we get a hunch when someone is lying. Perhaps it’s life experience or intuition that raises caution; regardless of the reason, that gut feeling can often help us to be a bit cautious of someone’s words. Even better than a hunch is the proof of a lie; evidence proving an individual is guilty of hiding the truth. White lie or big lie, fraud doesn’t make exceptions. Today’s Fraud of the Day from Radio Iowa highlights the case of one resident whose bogus application for disaster relief turned into a disaster of her own making.

In June 2008, a massive squall of rain storms targeted the Oxford Junction area in Iowa, causing flooding and damage to local homes and businesses. Needy residents sought to claim disaster relief benefits to defray the costs of damage that occurred as a result of the storm. One Iowa resident saw the damage as an opportunity to cash-in on some benefits that she didn’t need by lying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (So why is it people feel the need to lie, to take away a good thing from those who REALLY need it?) The defendant claimed to have owned a home in the Oxford Junction area during the time of the flooding, a home that suffered damage from the waters. The fraudster accepted the benefits to repay the damage to her personal property – damage that happened to be nonexistent.

Ultimately, she was caught in the lie and pleaded guilty to one count of disaster benefits fraud. Judges ordered her to repay $7,200 in restitution, to collect on the false claims she made to the federal benefits. In addition, she will spend four months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release. (Only four months?)

Life lessons can be hard and not necessarily enjoyable experiences. In the case of this fraudster, the lesson learned is: “Lying is a disaster in and of itself.” Perhaps next time she goes to tell a lie, she will remember her four months in federal prison and opt for a truthful, less fraudulent route instead.

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