A 51-year-old Atlantic City woman plead guilty to disaster benefits fraud and making false statements to the the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Thursday afternoon, March 7.
Debbie Hick faces a mazimum penalty of 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 for lying on Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) forms to collect $15,691 in aid she was not entitled to after her apartment was damaged as the result of a nor'easter in March of 2010. In April of that year, she filed a claim seeking assistance through FEMA's Individual Assistance Program, according to Fishman.
She claimed her apartment was uninhabitable, and that finding was upheld following inspection by FEMA. She was awarded $923 a month, but failed to reveal that the Atlantic County Department of Family and Community Development was paying her rent, Fishman said.
Hicks admitted that at the same time she was defrauding FEMA, she was lying to the Housing Authority and Urban Redevelopment Agency of Atlantic City by not revealing she was receiving FEMA and Atlantic County Department of Family and Community Development funding when she applied for Section 8 housing, Fishman said.
Fishman added that she lied about her prior criminal record and using other people's names and Social Security numbers.
Her sentencing was scheduled for June 14.