Miss. Mayor, Wife Charged for Katrina Fraud

Gulfport mayor, wife allegedly bilked feds, insurance out of more than $220,000.

ByPIERRE THOMAS
January 28, 2009, 4:49 PM

Jan. 28, 2009— -- Federal prosecutors are accusing the mayor of Gulfport, Miss. and his wife of trying to enrich themselves at the public's expense in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A 16-count indictment accuses Gulfport Mayor Gregory Brent Warr and his wife, Laura Jean Warr, of bilking FEMA, federal housing officials and an insurance company of $222,798.10.

The funds allegedly were sought in connection with damages to a family residence that took place during the massive hurricane.

"It was part of the conspiracy that the defendants would by deceit, craft, trick and dishonest means, submit false information and statements regarding the place of residence of themselves and their family at the time of Hurricane Katrina," the indictment states.

The government alleges that the couple said they were requesting funds for repairs to a home that was their primary residence, when, in fact, it was not. If convicted, the Warrs face a maximum 210 years in prison and fines up to $4 million.

Mayor Warr issued a statement in response, saying, "We have entered a plea of not guilty. Out of respect for the justice system and the government, I will not speak further about the claim made against us."

Warr also promised the work of the city would go on while he fights the charges.

"My fundamental mission as mayor, since Aug. 29, 2005, has been to return this city to greatness, and today Gulfport is absolutely on the right track to greatness," Warr said. "Understand that what has been alleged toward my wife and me has no connection to me as mayor. This has not and will not change my commitment to the progress and recovery of our city."

The mayor had been in office less than two months when Katrina hit, and he met with President George W. Bush when he traveled to Gulfport in Sept. 2005. A year later, Bush singled him out in remarks he made during a trip to the region for the one-year anniversary of the storm.

Warr and his wife are two of more than 1,200 people charged in connection with Hurricane Katrina-related fraud.

ABC News' Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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