Chicago man charged after using false location to receive derecho funds

Iowa News

A sign reading “For Sale (Cheap)” is seen on a damaged vehicle, n Marion, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, as trees a severely damaged by a an Aug. 10 derecho are cleaned up. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCAU) — A Chicago man was charged with one count of derecho benefits fraud after claiming in an application that his primary residence at the time of the derecho was in Cedar Rapids when he was actually residing in the Chicago area.

According to a release, Tavonte Donnell Stewart, 23, from Chicago, Illinois, appeared in federal court in Chicago and was held without bond.  Stewart’s next appearance for a detention hearing is set for December 23.

The complaint alleges that on, or about September 15, Stewart applied for disaster benefits from FEMA arising out of the severe derecho storm in Iowa on August 10. 

Stewart is alleged to have claimed in his application that his primary residence at the time of the derecho was in Cedar Rapids when in truth he was residing in the Chicago area where he was on federal supervised release for a felony counterfeiting conviction. 

When FEMA contacted a representative of a property management firm about the address in Cedar Rapids, the manager stated that the property in question was not occupied at the time of the storm and had suffered only minor roof damage from the derecho. 

If convicted, Stewart faces a possible maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release. 

As with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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