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A disaster-recovery loan agent stole hurricane victims’ identities to enrich herself, feds allege

CODRINGTON, BARBUDA - DECEMBER 08: A face mask hangs in a tree on the nearly destroyed island of Barbuda on December 8, 2017 in Cordington, Barbuda. Barbuda, which covers only 62 square miles, was nearly leveled when Hurricane Irma made landfall with 185mph winds on the night of September six. Only two days later, fearing Barbuda would be hit again by Hurricane Jose, the prime minister ordered an evacuation of all 1,800 residents of the island. Most are now still in shelters scattered around Barbuda's much larger sister island Antigua. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

When victims of two major hurricanes applied for government loans to help them recover, a woman who helped process applications stole their identities and used them to buy things and apply for loans herself, federal prosecutors allege.

Keonna Davis, 32, of Buffalo, New York, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, the US attorney’s office for New York’s western district said Wednesday.

Davis, prosecutors say, was a disaster-recovery specialist for the US Small Business Administration, which gives low-interest loans to help businesses and homeowners recover from natural disasters.

In that job, she helped process loan applications for victims of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which deluged Texas and Louisiana, and Hurricane Irma, which slammed parts of Florida that same year.

She is accused of stealing applicants’ identities and using them to open new financial accounts, as well as adding herself to victims’ existing accounts and using those to buy things for herself, prosecutors say.

She also used the information to try to obtain, according to prosecutors:

• A $4,900 loan for a French bulldog;

• a $15,000 loan for plastic surgery;

• and a $35,000 personal loan.

Davis was arraigned Wednesday and released, pending trial. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to a prison term up to 20 years and a fine up to $500,000, prosecutors say.

Davis’ attorney with the federal public defender’s office, Frank Passafiume, declined to comment on the case, citing office policy.

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