Donnie Lee Burleson, 38, must pay $30,200 in restitution to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and serve five years of supervised release after completing his prison term, according to the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn.
Burleson pleaded guilty in June to one count of disaster-benefit fraud for falsely representing to FEMA on May 3, 2011, that he owned a residence in Hackleburg that was destroyed by an April 27, 2011, tornado. Based on Burleson’s fraudulent claim, FEMA paid him $30,200 in disaster-relief benefits. The federal funds were paid in connection with the Presidential Disaster Declaration for Alabama that followed the deadly April tornadoes that raked the state, destroying communities in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Hackleburg and elsewhere.
Burleson, through his false claim to FEMA, fraudulently diverted disaster benefits to himself that were meant for honest citizens genuinely affected by the storm, the government said in its Sentencing Memorandum.
“He sought to parlay the community’s devastation and distress into a financial windfall for himself,” the memo said.
The FBI and DHS, OIG, investigated the case, which was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama.