LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – A Morgan City woman has been convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to disaster relief.

Karen Hawkins Gier, 53, of Morgan City, was convicted Tuesday afternoon by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with fraudulently applying for disaster benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

In Aug. 2016, a severe flood occurred in south Louisiana and a Presidential disaster declaration was issued on August 14, 2016. This period covered Aug. 11, 2016 through Aug. 31, 2016. FEMA was authorized to provide transportation assistance for repair or replacement of a primary vehicle damaged by the flood.

Gier made false statements to FEMA in transportation benefits and submitted fake invoices from non-existent mechanic shops.

Gier’s false representations to FEMA included lying about vehicles being flooded and lying about the location of the vehicles being in a disaster area, when they were not.

Gier also “Included fake mechanic shop invoices in the applications to FEMA showing repair estimates that were made up by her and other co-conspirators. FEMA disbursed benefits for these alleged damages to the claimants who would then pay a portion of those funds to Gier as a kickback for submitting their fraudulent applications,” the release said.

Gier faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release,
and a fine of up to $250,000. Gier is scheduled to be sentenced June 29.

A co-defendant in this case, Justin Maurice Hawkins, pleaded guilty to a Bill of Information charging him with one count of theft of government funds. Hawkins is scheduled to be sentenced May 4.