If you're a defendant in a federal criminal case alleging you scammed FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which of these two things would you least like to hear?
a) Your own attorney describing your mental state: "He can function. I mean, he's not like...a raving lunatic. He's not Anthony Hopkins. But he doesn't have the ability to discern things [and] can't make executive decisions."
b) The judge in your case describing your defense as "not sound science" and comparable to "Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland."
Either way, you're probably screwed.
And screwed is what Daniel Yeh is.
At the time of Katrina, he had a long-term lease on Galveston's Flagship Hotel, owned by Tilman Fertitta.
The feds say he scammed FEMA out of more than $230,000 by inflating the number of evacuees he housed at the Flagship.
His lawyer argued Yeh had diminished brain capacity because of a series of operations for a brain tumor; he also noted that Yeh had reimbursed the feds the money they said he scammed.
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon wasn't impressed.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says:
Judge Harmon also noted that "given the public nature and widespread availability of disaster-assistance relief programs, deterrence is a particularly important sentencing consideration" and that Yeh's fraud involved more money, sophistication and planning than any of the other more than eighty cases of FEMA fraud charged in the district thus far.
Yeh was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $30,000 fine.
-- Richard Connelly
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