Pasco Couple Accused of Making False Statements to Get FEMA Benefits after Hurricane Irma
Federal officials say the wife lied to get hurricane relief and the husband lied to help cover up her fraud.
OCALA – A federal grand jury has indicted a Pasco husband and wife in connection with fraud related to claiming FEMA relief after Hurricane Irma, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
Christina Lynn Catalano, 38, of Holiday, was charged with disaster-assistance fraud regarding Hurricane Irma. The indictment also charges Catalano and her husband, Joseph Samuel Catalano 54, with making false statements to federal agents to conceal such fraud. If convicted, Christina Catalano faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison, plus payment of restitution to the U.S. Joseph Catalano faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison.
According to the indictment, between Sept. 15 and Nov. 20, 2017, Christina Catalano falsified records concerning the alleged destruction to a non-existent travel trailer, which she claimed as her primary residence in Citrus County. The records accompanied an application for assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individuals and Households Program for Hurricane Irma.
The indictment further alleges that on Jan. 31, Christina and Joseph Catalano made false statements to federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security to conceal the fraudulent claims.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case is part of the U.S. attorney’s Disaster Fraud Task Force, which was announced in September 2017.
Members of the public who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll-free at (866) 720-5721 or complete the online complaint form by going to justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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