Desima James, 30, of Atlanta, Georgia, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on felony charges for fraudulently obtaining FEMA assistance funds intended for the victims of several different federally declared disasters. James was arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman, who set a bond hearing for Wednesday, March 31, 2010.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “In just a few months, this defendant claimed to be a victim of five different natural disasters in five different states. He is accused of filing over 30 fraudulent claims with FEMA, using different names, fake social security numbers, and various addresses to enable him to escape detection and steal over $30,000 in disaster relief that was intended for real victims. He has now been caught and will be called to answer for this extensive fraud.”
“This investigation is an excellent example of a partnership between federal law enforcement agencies to bring down a nationwide fraud scheme. The Postal Inspection Service aggressively pursues all crimes using the U.S. Mail to further a fraudulent scheme, but is especially vigilant with regards to any scheme that attempts to profit from natural disasters such as these destructive hurricanes,” said Martin D. Phanco, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: From September through December 2005, James allegedly filed over 30 fraudulent claims for disaster relief with FEMA, claiming to have been a victim of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Hurricane Rita in Louisiana and Texas, Hurricane Wilma in Florida, severe storms and flooding in New Hampshire, and a tornado and severe storms in Indiana. In making these claims, James allegedly represented that he was living at various addresses in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, New Hampshire, and Indiana, when in fact he did not live at the claimed addresses during the time of the declared disasters. The indictment alleges that in addition to filing claims under his real name and social security number, James also allegedly filed claims under the names “James Desima,” “Terrell James,” and “James Terell,” and used different social security numbers not belonging to him. Based on his misrepresentations, James received over $30,000 in disaster assistance funds from FEMA.