BIRMINGHAM—A federal grand jury today indicted a Birmingham woman for fraudulently claiming disaster benefits following the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that struck North Alabama, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Maley, and Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge James E. Ward.
The three-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges Charlotte H. Browning, 51, with making fraudulent representations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in an application for disaster benefits concerning her place of residence on the day of the tornadoes. Browning falsely represented that she lived at a residence on First Avenue South in Birmingham that had been damaged by the storm. She also was charged with making a false statement to FEMA by presenting a false lease on the First Avenue South property in applying for disaster-benefits.
The indictment further charges Browning with mail fraud in connection with an $11,647 U.S. Treasury check mailed to her based on a false FEMA benefits application she filed in someone else’s name, without their knowledge, for a house on Lafayette Street in Birmingham. Neither Browning nor the person in whose name she filed for those disaster benefits lived at the Lafayette Street address, according to the indictment.
The maximum penalties for the charges Browning faces are: disaster fraud, 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; false statement, five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and mail fraud, 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The public can report fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline, toll-free, at 1-866-720-5721 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The FBI and DHS-OIG investigated the case.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.