St. Augustine planning board member accused of FEMA fraud

Deltra Long pleads not guilty in federal court

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Corley Peel - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A 66-year-old woman, who is a member of the St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board, has been indicted on charges of theft of government funds and false claims against the government in connection with property damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

According to the indictment, Deltra Long gave a false home address to get Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance. 

Long pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday afternoon. 

She declined to comment as she left the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville. 

FEMA funds are limited to the primary residence of a homeowner who lives in the premises at the time of the disaster. Federal investigators said Long applied for disaster aid to restore a rental property that she did not occupy when Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Florida on Oct. 3, 2016.

According to tax records, Long owns at least 10 properties in St. Augustine. Neighbors who live near the property on which she made the disaster claim said they haven't seen anyone there for at least a year.

"That is a little crazy to me to hear in this town because everybody is so honest," resident Ellie Mercado said. "I am from Miami, where nobody is honest. It's weird coming to St. Augustine and hearing something like that."

Long, a retired St. Johns County schools guidance counselor, has been on the board of Betty Griffin House and has served on numerous other civic boards. She ran for City Commission in 2012 and came in third.

If convicted, Long could face up to five years in federal prison on the theft count and up to 10 years on the false claims count.

The indictment also notifies Long that the United States intends to forfeit $10,022,.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.