A former West Virginia official who lost her job in 2016 after she referred to then-first lady Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels” now faces up to 30 years in prison after admitting she defrauded the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) out of thousands of dollars that were intended to help flood victims, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.
According to the newspaper, Pamela Taylor, the former director of the Clay County Development Corp., pleaded guilty earlier this week to stealing more than $18,000 in relief benefits from the agency intended to help those whose homes were damaged by the 2016 floods that ravaged the state.
The 57-year-old Republican official admitted in court that she wrongfully registered for some of the disaster benefits, claiming that her primary residence was damaged by flooding, forcing her to live in a rental unit.
But investigators found that Taylor’s home was never damaged by the floods and that she was living in her home all along.
Taylor has since reportedly agreed to pay $18,149.04 in restitution in her plea agreement.
The former government employee also reportedly faces up to 30 years in prison, in addition to a maximum fine of $500,000. Taylor will be sentenced in May.
“The flood was a natural disaster. Stealing from FEMA is a man-made disaster,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart in a news release. “The floods of June 2016 were historic and devastating to thousands of West Virginians. Lives were lost. Too many of our brothers and sisters lost everything. FEMA dollars are critical but limited. Stealing critical FEMA dollars is a crime – literally and figuratively. Taylor’s fraud scheme diverted disaster benefits from our most desperate and vulnerable, those most in need of help.”
Taylor first captured national attention in November 2016 when she said in a Facebook post that “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”