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Woman pleads guilty to filing false Gulf oil disaster claims

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Charlette Johnson was the first person to be charged with fraud in the Gulf oil spill
  • She also filed force claims in Hurricane Katrina and a wildfire in California, authorities said
  • Her false claims totaled more than $75,000, authorities said

(CNN) -- A North Carolina woman pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent claims for relief from the Gulf oil disaster, authorities said.

Charlette Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of submitting false claims to a federal agency, two counts of aggravated identity theft and eight counts of wire fraud in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Monday, prosecutors said.

Johnson, 41, was the first person to be charged with fraud in connection with relief from the BP oil spill, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said. She may also be the first person to plead guilty of the seven people charged with fraud in connection with the oil spill, the spokeswoman said.

But the BP oil spill wasn't the only disaster for which Johnson fraudulently applied for relief, authorities said.

Johnson also fraudulently claimed she needed assistance for property damage "caused by Hurricane Katrina for a home in New Orleans that she never owned and in which she never lived," federal authorities said in a statement

Johnson also placed a claim in the name of her sister for "damage caused by the wildfires to a home in Malibu, California, that neither she, nor her sister, had ever owned, and in which neither she nor her sister had ever lived."

In all, Johnson was able to fraudulently obtain more than $75,000 in four years from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to court documents.

For some of the time Johnson committed the fraud, she was on active duty with the Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, court documents said.

Johnson also goes by the first name Charlotte Johnson.

For one of the claims she used her name, Charlette Johnson. Later she used other names such as Minnie Blount, Robert Garner, Sabrina Conner, Lexxus Johnson and Otis McNeil.

"When someone seeks to profit from tragic disasters and attempts to trade on other peoples' misfortune for personal gain through lies and deceit, they will be held to account for their actions," said U.S. Attorney George Holding of the eastern district of North Carolina.

CNN's Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report.