Woman pleads guilty to hurricane disaster assistance fraud

In this NOAA-NASA GOES Project handout image taken Sunday morning, GOES satellite shows Hurricane Irma as it moves on the Florida coast as Tropical Storm Jose (right) moves west in the Atlantic Ocean. (NOAA-NASA GOES Project via Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida woman has pleaded guilty to lying about damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

Deannajo White, 39, pleaded guilty in Jacksonville federal court Friday to one count of disaster assistance fraud, according to court records. She faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as paying restitution.

White made an application for disaster assistance benefits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the internet in September 2017, according to court documents.

She claimed that a tree fell through the roof of her Branford home during Hurricane Irma, forcing her to stay in a nearby rental property. White later reported that she had moved to a different rental property with a higher rent, adding receipts, leases and letters to her application.

Law enforcement agents said White repeatedly lied to them during an August 2019 interview about her disaster assistance application. When confronted with evidence showing that she had lied, White admitted to making false statements and submitting false documents to FEMA, according to court records.

Hurricane Irma struck Florida in September 2017, causing about $50 billion in damage throughout the state.