Pasco County Couple Arrested For Submitting False Claims For FEMA Benefits Related To Hurricane Irma | USAO-MDFL

Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the return of an indictment charging Christina Lynn Catalano (38, Holiday) 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 United States. Joseph Catalano faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison.

According to the indictment, between September 15 and November 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 January 31, 2020, 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 United States Attorney’s Disaster Fraud Task Force, which was announced in September 2017. It was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael P. Felicetta.

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 visiting www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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