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Woman Gets 43 Years for Hurricane Katrina Fraud

Montgomery – A federal judge sentenced a Montgomery woman to 516 months or 43 years in prison Thursday for cheating the federal government after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Attorney Leura Canary said in a statement that it's one of the longest sentences to be handed out in a string of fraud-related convictions arising out of Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.

28-year-old Bernetta LaShay Willis was convicted of 22 different counts involving the filing of false claims for disaster assistance, theft of funds, conspiracy, threatening a witness from another Katrina case, drug distribution, weapons charges and lying to federal agents.

Canary said Willis was successful in stealing $80,000 in funds and had also devised a scheme to steal more than $500,000.

At least 44 defendants from the Middle District of Alabama have been charged with defrauding the government of disaster assistance money.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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