By Ashley Cox

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CW44 News At 10)– U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis has sentenced Deontres Javan Taylor (27, Jacksonville) to 24 months in federal prison for disaster assistance fraud involving Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) benefits. As part of the sentence, the Court also ordered Taylor to pay restitution to the United States in the amount of $8,083.19.

According to court documents, on September 4, 2017, Taylor, while in Duval County, Florida, made an application for disaster assistance benefits to FEMA. In the application, he claimed that his primary residence in Jacksonville, Florida had suffered storm damage from Hurricane Irma. Taylor stated that storm surge flooded his residence and lightning caused a power surge which resulted in the residence losing power. As a result of these issues, Taylor claimed that he moved to a hotel and needed housing assistance. Based on the false statements made by Taylor in his application for disaster assistance benefits, FEMA paid $8,038.19 in benefits for Taylor.

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Further investigation determined that Taylor did not live at the residence listed in his benefits application since at least 2015, nor was he at that residence in any capacity when Hurricane Irma impacted the Jacksonville area. An inspection of the residence by FEMA also determined that it did not suffer storm surge damage or power loss as a result of Hurricane Irma.

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“When criminals commit disaster relief fraud, they are victimizing all taxpayers, but more specifically, those directly impacted by the disaster,” said HSI Jacksonville Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips. “HSI is proud of our partnership with the DHS, Office of Inspector General, in identifying and prosecuting those who attempt to thwart the integrity of the FEMA disaster assistance program.”

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This case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General, with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin C. Frein.  This case is part of the United States Attorney’s Disaster Fraud Task Force, which was announced in September 2017.