Local Woman Arrested for Posing as Katrina Victim - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/12/05

Local Woman Arrested for Posing as Katrina Victim

All over the Coastal Empire and Low Country, people donated money, food, water and other supplies to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But unfortunately, not everyone who was helped was an actual victim of the storms. Savannah-Chatham police arrested one woman here who was posing as a victim.

Police have actually had to put an investigator just on these cases, and they made their first arrest on Monday.

Brenda Stier, who actually is a Katrina victim, showed us home video of the devastation to her New Orleans neighborhood. She lived just blocks from where the levee broke and went back to see the damage for the first time this weekend.

"I walked in, I was devastated, when I saw what I did," she said. "That the bottom floor of the house, you know from three feet on down, the bottom third of the house, just gone."

She lost just about everything, and she and her daughter moved to Savannah with her mother, getting a lot of help along the way.

"Oh yes, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army," she said. "Forgive me if I'm forgetting anyone. My mother's church, St. Peter's Episcopal."

Another woman, Carolina or Carol Anne Winters, was also getting help from the Red Cross, illegally, posing as a Katrina victim, stealing the money.

"She was bogus from the very start," said Sgt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. "The investigation revealed that everything she had told the Red Cross to obtain those funds were fraudulent."

Winters has never been a resident of Louisiana, and her home is now in the Chatham County jail.

Katrina victims find her act disgraceful. "I'm outraged," said Stier. "Whatever this lady had when she went in to commit this fraud, it's a lot more than what my five-year-old has right now."

Winters is being charged with felony theft by deceit because she received more than $500 from the Red Cross.

Police are investigating at least 18 other cases, and more arrests could follow.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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