Houston woman pleads guilty to $500K wire fraud as victims of recent storms await for FEMA's aid

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Saturday, June 15, 2024
Houston woman pleads guilty to $500K wire fraud as victims of recent storms await for FEMA's aid
"You're taking away from people who actually need the help," one of several victims in May's deadly storm told ABC13 while a Houston woman pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme involving disaster relief funds this week.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Multiple victims of the May 16 storm tell Eyewitness News they're still waiting on the FEMA money that was promised to them.

A tree brought down the brick wall that runs along a man's northwest Harris County yard.

"I have a wall that's knocked off. I got some holes in my roof," Ron Hale, a victim of May's severe storms across southeast Texas, said.

The winds toppled a fence in Kyndra Snoddy's house.

Both Snoddy and Hale applied for and were approved for $750 in FEMA assistance in May.

But two weeks into June, they say they still haven't received the money.

SEE ALSO: If FEMA's assistance doesn't arrive on time, what should you do during hurricane season?

"Just been calling and calling and calling the FEMA hotline. They're really no help," Snoddy said.

FEMA told Eyewitness News that the Texas Department of Health and Human Services is handling the payments. A call and email to the agency went unreturned Friday.

Meanwhile, at least one woman had no trouble getting FEMA money.

This week, Khalia Douglas pleaded guilty to filing eight fraudulent FEMA applications and a bunch of fraudulent PPP loan applications for herself and others.

The fraud totaled more than $500,000, although just over $350,000 was approved.

"People who are gaming the system, special place in - the downstairs place for those types of people," Hale said.

Prosecutors say Douglas advertised what she was doing on Instagram and offered to do it for others for a fee.

"$100 upfront to process your application," one post read.

A 2020 Department of Homeland Security audit found FEMA lost $3 billion to potential fraud from 2003 to 2018. That's $200 million per year.

SEE MORE: FEMA facing $1.3B budget shortfall due to damaging weather in Houston and across US

It comes as the agency is forecasting a $6.2 billion deficit.

"You're taking away from people who actually need the help," Hale said.

Snoddy said she needs the help now even more than she did the day her fence came down. Not long after the storm, she lost her job.

"I'm looking for work right now, but in the meantime, I really do need the funds to help pay for the rent. The rent is behind," Snoddy said.

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