Alleged FEMA Fraud - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

12/23/05 - Lufkin

Alleged FEMA Fraud

by Jessica Cervantez

On Thursday, the East Texas News interviewed a family that was looking for housing and living in a Lufkin hotel. After the report aired, KTRE received several phone calls and e-mails claiming the family is not displaced because of the hurricane, but instead they were evicted from their home.

On Thursday evening, the East Texas News aired a story about Thelma Dewalt and her family. She said they were having a tough time looking for a house and have been staying at Holiday Inn since November 10th.

On Friday, Dewalt says they have an apartment lined up, and they have had it for awhile. After the story aired, we received phone calls and e-mails stating the Dewalts are not an evacuee family.

In fact, Diboll Police Chief Kent Havard says the situation has been reported to FEMA to be investigated. He says the Dewalts were displaced because they didn't pay rent at their home on Rhone Street, not because of the hurricane.

Thelma Dewalt has another story.

Dewalt said, "I was never liked by any of those folks in Diboll. All I'm saying is that all I know is that the house there was backed up with sewer in the house. That's all I know. The FEMA man came out and he inspected it. If they have got some comments about me, tell them to ask FEMA. The FEMA man came out."

Former neighbors say they are shocked, but not surprised.

Sam Coleman, a former neighbor, said, "I missed that on the news last night, and I'm blown away by it. It's nowhere near the truth. They weren't hurt at all in the hurricane."

Dewalt says she has lived in Diboll for three years. The Holiday Inn hotel manager isn't sure what will happen next if the allegations are true.

Steve Trotter said, "I don't think it is our position to police that situation. We would really like the authorities to let us know that is happening,"

The Dewalts say, now that they have found a new apartment, they will be moving out of the hotel shortly after Christmas.

The East Texas News spoke to a FEMA representative who says they cannot comment on a specific case. But, the rep says, they do take fraud very seriously.
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