U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger sentenced Taylor to 10 months in prison and two months of house arrest for the crimes, in addition to the $10,000 fine given to her.
“There’s no such thing as a little bit of FEMA fraud. Taylor’s fraudulent scheme took FEMA dollars away from those who needed it the most,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart in a statement.
“Federal disaster benefits are critical to rebuilding infrastructure, homes and lives – not for lining the pockets of individuals who suffered no loss. Any party that abused their position of authority, violated the public trust, or misused taxpayer dollars will be held accountable.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA created a fund for the victims of severe floods that killed 23 people and destroyed hundreds of homes along West Virginia’s Elk River in June 2016.
Taylor, who was working as director of the Clay County Development Corporation, signed up for FEMA funds, although her home was not affected by the flood. She told FEMA her house had been damaged and she was forced to live in a condo while it was being renovated. Both of those claims were not true. FEMA gave her $18,000.
“Defrauding federal programs is always an egregious act. Disaster relief fraud is even more serious because of the limited nature of the funds intended to assist Americans in their time of greatest need,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky of DHS-OIG.
“DHS-OIG is pleased to…show the good people of West Virginia that justice has been served upon Taylor, who knowingly and willfully disregarded federal laws to personally enrich herself at a time when many people affected by this disaster were just trying to survive.”
Only a few months after falsely applying for the FEMA funds, Taylor wrote a post on Facebook where she made derogatory comments about Michelle Obama and was fired from her position. People were particularly livid because the Clay County Development Corporation, where she was in charge, received nearly $2 million in state and federal funding.
“It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House,” she wrote at the time.
“I’m tired of seeing an ape in heels.”
The controversy grew even more complicated when the mayor of Clay, Beverly Whaling, replied to Taylor’s Facebook post with, “Just made my day Pam.” She later resigned after being criticized heavily.