LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A 49-year-old New Iberia woman will spend the next 18 months in federal prison for submitting fraudulent damage claims to federal officials after hurricanes in 2005 and 2008 and receiving more than $24,000.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says Valerie Benjamin submitted the false claims to the Federal Emergency Management Agency after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Gustav and Ike in 2008.

Finley says Benjamin pleaded guilty April 16. Judge Richard Haik ordered Benjamin to pay $24,960 to FEMA in restitution.

Two other New Iberia women, Jacqueline Benjamin and Pamela Alexander, used Valerie Benjamin's personal information, such as her Social Security number and birthdate, and submitted fictitious rental agreements and other documents to make it appear that Benjamin was renting a home because hers was too damaged to live in, Finley said.

"The investigation revealed that she never moved from her home, and it only sustained minor storm damage," Finley said.

Alexander is serving a 10-month sentence and will be supervised for three years upon release. She also must pay FEMA $15,280 in restitution. Jacqueline Benjamin was sentenced to three years of probation.

FEMA conducted the investigation.

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