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Hustler convicted of pocketing $10,000 in Katrina relief

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : Federal jurors today convicted a shameless hustler of stealing more than $10,000 in Hurricane Katrina disaster funds issued by FEMA that he used for department-store shopping sprees.

David Kollie, 43, faces up to five years in prison on one of the convictions and up to 10 years for each of 18 others when U.S. District Judge William H. Walls sentences him.

He also could be fined up to $250,000 by Walls, who scheduled sentencing for Aug. 1.

During the four-day trial, federal prosecutors showed that Kollie received and deposited at least nine U.S. Treasury checks from a co-conspirator, each for $2,358 — the amount FEMA set as three months of average rent for citizens displaced by the hurricane and subsequent flooding in 2005.

Kollie kept $358 from each of the checks, which he described during his trial testimony as “pocket change,” giving the rest to his co-conspirator. He also kept the entire $7,449 from a tax refund check, spending most of the money at Macy’s and JCPenney, prosecutors showed.

The eight FEMA checks Kollie received were obtained through the online application process the agency set up for the displaced victims, investigators said.

Several victims of identity theft testified that they never knew their names or identifying information had been used to apply for the disaster assistance funds.

They didn‘t even live in the New Orleans area when the hurricane hit.

Federal authorities began investigating after one of the banks Kollie used to deposit the checks contacted the U.S. Secret Service about suspicious activity in his account.

Kollie also deposited a tax refund check issued to a woman from Brooklyn who testified that she didn’t get the check as expected and had to file a claim form with the IRS for her payment.

Altogether, Kollie and his partner stole more than $23,000 from the U.S. government, with Kollie getting more than $10,000, prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General for  making the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacques S. Pierre and Matthew E. Beck of Fishman’s Criminal Division in Newark.

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