Port Arthur man lies about living in Harvey-damaged home, scams government for $23K+

Published 12:34 am Wednesday, July 14, 2021

BEAUMONT – A Port Arthur man who pleaded guilty today to hurricane-related fraud faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

The court will determine sentencing based on advisory guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled following the U.S. Probation Office’s pre-sentence investigation.

Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei said Jose Luis Carrillo, 50, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Texas to an information charging him with fraud in relation to a major disaster or emergency benefits before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith F. Giblin.

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“Disaster relief fraud is even more serious because of the limited nature of the funds intended to assist people in their time of greatest need,” Ganjei said

According to information presented in court, on Sep. 21, 2017, Carrillo applied for Hurricane Harvey assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a damaged dwelling located on Luis Drive in Port Arthur.

Carrillo said he owned the damaged dwelling and it was his primary residence. Carrillo received $23,619.70 in FEMA assistance for rental expenses and home repairs.

The actual residents of the residence also submitted an application, but were denied benefits, Ganjei said.

An investigation determined the actual residents lived at the location from July 2017 until they moved out at the end of August 2017, after Hurricane Harvey struck. Carrillo admitted he fraudulently represented the home was his primary residence to obtain FEMA funds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Grove prosecuted the case.

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari said the plea demonstrates a commitment to identify and investigate all allegations of fraud to protect the integrity of FEMA programs funded by the taxpayer.

“Theft of funds from DHS programs intended to help those in need will not be tolerated,” he said.