SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- A woman who lived in the Northern California town of Paradise that was devastated in the 2018 Camp Fire admitted Monday to lying about losing her home in the fire in order to receive $77,000 in federal disaster relief.
Deborah Laughlin pleaded guilty to making false statements in an application for FEMA benefits in connection with wildfire, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip Talbert announced.
In a press release, Talbert cited court documents that said Laughlin falsely claimed an apartment on the 7200 block of Skyway as her primary residence at the time of the Camp Fire. However, during that time other people were renting and living in a mobile home at the address.
Based on the false statements on her FEMA application, Laughlin received $7,886 to replace essential items and $1,788 for two months of rental assistance. Laughlin also received temporary housing for almost two years in the form of a manufactured home between June 2019 through April, according to court documents.
The total payout from the government was estimated to be at least $77,249.
Laughlin was scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 20. While she faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the actual sentence will be determined by the court's discretion and consideration of sentencing guidelines.
Talbert urged members of the public who suspect disaster relief fraud, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721, or to email DHSOIGHotline@dhs.gov.
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