Chico Resident Pleads Guilty to Filing False Clam for FEMA Assistance in Connection with the Paradise Camp Fire

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SACRAMENTO : A Chico man pleaded guilty today to fraud in connection with a major disaster or emergency benefits, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

Following the 2018 Camp Fire, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster assistance funds were available to qualified individuals who had emergency needs for housing, food, and other necessities due to losses incurred by the fire. To qualify for assistance based on home ownership, an applicant must have resided in the damaged home as their primary residence at the time of the fire.

Evan Palmer, 32, pleaded guilty to making a false statement in a claim for FEMA disaster assistance in connection with the Camp Fire. According to court documents, on Dec. 17, 2018, Palmer filed a false claim with FEMA seeking disaster assistance funds for a travel trailer in Paradise that he claimed was his primary residence at the time of the Camp Fire. Palmer owned the travel trailer, however, it was not his primary residence at the time of the fire. Rather, Palmer was living in a home that he leased in Chico. As a result of Palmer’s false statement, he received $26,490 in FEMA disaster benefits, which was to be used to repair or replace Palmer’s primary residence and to assist with two months of temporary rental housing.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shelley Weger and Roger Yang are prosecuting the case.

Palmer is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on Aug. 17. Palmer faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, including Camp Fire or COVID-19 relief efforts, or who believe they have been a 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. Alternatively, information can be submitted via the Center’s online Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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