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Rochester man admits to Katrina fraud

Jonathan Etienne, 23, of Rochester, has pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman to theft of public money.

The charge carries a  maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The plea must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge David G. Larimer.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Lee said that in October 2005, while residing in the Western District of New York, Etienne applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance for damages he allegedly suffered as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The defendant claimed that at the time the storm made landfall in August 2005, he was residing in New Orleans, Louisiana and was forced to relocate. As a result, Etienne received $10,391.51 in FEMA funding to which he was not entitled.

The plea culminates an investigation on the part of special agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Greg Null, special agent in charge.