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Mobile man found guilty of false claims for Katrina aid

MOBILE (AP) - A Mobile man who claimed his New Orleans home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina was found guilty Tuesday on charges connected to his fraudulent application for government assistance in the wake of the storm, justice officials said.

Governor Reiss Sr., 54, called a Federal Emergency Management Agency hotline a month after the storm to claim that his primary residence, vehicle and personal property had been completely destroyed, according to a Department of Justice statement. Reiss had moved out of the house in New Orleans at least three months before Katrina hit and was living in Mobile.

"The jury's verdict shows that fraud and deception will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Alabama, particularly when people have taken advantage of a catastrophe to enrich themselves at the expense of others," U.S. Attorney Deborah J. Rhodes said in the statement.

The false claims netted Reiss $12,858 for temporary housing and to replace his home. He spent the money on a new vehicle and to visit his daughter in California.

Once FEMA discovered that he didn't live in New Orleans, Reiss was ordered to repay the money.

He was convicted of making a false claim to the government, making a false statement, two counts of theft of public money, two counts of wire fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing was set for March 26. Reiss was taken into custody pending sentencing.

Making false claims and false statements each carry a maximum possible term of five years in prison. Theft of public money is punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and each count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison. Each felony conviction is also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution of any proceeds of the crime.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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