BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Authorities said five women suspected of trying to dupe the system to illegally obtain disaster benefits after Hurricane Isaac were arrested during a fraud roundup Friday.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office said the following suspects were arrested:
Sarah Sonnier, 27, of Baton Rouge
Louvanna Pope, 57, of Baton Rouge
Juanita Russell, 55, of Baton Rouge
Flora Williams, 49, of Baton Rouge
Demetria Ayio, 45, of Baton Rouge
All of the suspects are charged with felony theft by fraud. They are all accused of using a dead relative and other false information in order to get Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) and other benefits following Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
"DCFS uses all available tools and technology to track those who commit fraud in our public assistance programs," said DCFS Chief of Staff Tia Embaugh. "Cases such as this should serve as a warning that fraudulent activity is not tolerated in any of DCFS' programs, which are intended to provide assistance to children and families."
In addition to allegedly putting name of a dead family member on the household list, Sonnier is accused of reporting less income that she actually makes. Officials said she received $526 in DSNAP benefits. Pope is suspected of claiming a dead relative and one that was in jail, as well as failing to report all household income. She reportedly also received $526.
Russell allegedly used the name of a dead relative and held back on reporting the total amount of available income in the household. Officials said she received $668. Officials said Williams also reported a dead family member and held back on reporting some household income. They added she also got $668 in benefits.
Ayio is accused of claiming two dead relatives and the father of her child as household members. She also allegedly underreported the total household income. She reportedly received $668.
"Falsifying state documents in order to receive benefits is a crime," said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux. "We will work closely with our local, state and federal counterparts to make sure that those committing these crimes are arrested."
Officials said the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigated fraudulent activity and turned warrants over to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office.