This article made the front page of our local paper today. It makes me wonder if it can happen here "in the sticks" just how many other cases of fraud will be uncovered.
By David Adam
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
An Adams County judge issued an arrest warrant Friday afternoon for a woman who received financial assistance and help from others in the Quincy region after portraying herself as a victim of Hurricane Katrina.
Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard said Cindy Greenhill Shoop will be charged with perjury and theft over $300. He said both charges are Class 3 felonies, each punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Barnard said bond was set at $10,000.
The perjury charge stems from Shoop — also known as Cindy Greenhill — filling out an application to receive benefits as a victim of Hurricane Katrina from the Quincy Township General Assistance office, Barnard said.
He said the theft charge stems from a $665 check Greenhill received from the Adams County Chapter of the American Red Cross on Oct. 24.
"An investigation has been in progress and based upon the information developed, she has been charged (for) representations she made about being a Hurricane Katrina victim," Barnard said. "Those representations were made under penalty of perjury in order to obtain certain funds."
The story of Greenhill was detailed in an article published in the Nov. 27 edition of The Herald-Whig. Several readers questioned statements she made in the story, contacted The Herald-Whig, and the Quincy Police Department launched an investigation.
Greenhill stated in the news article that she was living with family members in a Quincy motel paid for with federal money after losing her home, her car and her possessions in the aftermath of Katrina.
Greenhill received financial assistance from the local chapter of the Red Cross and the Department of Human Services. She qualified for a loan from General Assistance, but she never received any money. The Herald-Whig and the Red Cross were contacted by
several people and organizations offering to help after the story appeared.
Greenhill also was featured in the Pike Press, and members of a Pittsfield church said they gave her clothing and furniture. Contacted recently, Greenhill said she and Jim Shoop were living in a small house in Pittsfield after having been transported there from Quincy the day after the story's publication.
"Things are finally looking up," she said. "I'm going to be working in a little grocery store here in town, and Jim's going to be working at a sawmill. I talked with Annie (her daughter living in Louisiana), and she's excited. We're going to get on our feet and then get a bigger place. This is what we needed."
In interviews with family members, police officials and other acquaintances in Louisiana and Florida after publication of the story, The Herald-Whig was told that:
* Greenhill was living in Florida, not Louisiana, at the time of the hurricane.
* The home she claimed to be living in at the time of the hurricane was not touched by floodwaters, and the owner said she had not lived there since April 2004.
WHERE DID SHE LIVE AND WHEN?
Greenhill claims she was living at 23947 Joe Gayle Road in Livingston, La., a few miles east of Baton Rouge, when warnings of Hurricane Katrina forced residents to evacuate. Katrina made landfall Aug. 29. She also claims to have lived in multiple shelters for hurricane evacuees before she was brought to Quincy by her sister-in-law.
Three sources and a police report dispute her claims.
Her second ex-husband, Doug Greenhill, said he owned the trailer "lock, stock and barrel," made the last payment on it in 1988 and that he helped her move out after divorce proceedings began in April 2004. Doug Greenhill said the divorce was finalized last month. The Greenhills had been married for about six years.
When told that, Cindy Greenhill says ownership of the trailer is now "in the middle of a property settlement."
Cindy Greenhill subsequently moved to a trailer park in Holden, La., where Sammy Hutchinson, who owns the park, said he evicted her in November 2004.
The Rev. Robert Glass, retired pastor at First United Pentecostal Church of Ensley, Fla., said earlier this month that Greenhill — his granddaughter — had been living rent-free in a trailer park he owns at 9800 Lyman in Pensacola, Fla., for "about a year" since last November, about the time she was evicted from her Holden trailer.
Glass in early December said Greenhill was in Pensacola at the time of the hurricane and that she left in the middle of the night "about two months ago." He said the windows were broken out of the trailer and the car Greenhill was driving was left at the park.
Glass said he had not since seen or heard from Greenhill.
Cindy Greenhill said: "No, I was in Livingston (when the hurricane struck). My grandpa had a trailer park (in Pensacola), and he let us stay there. Jim was in Pensacola. Jim and I, we tried to be together almost every weekend."
Glass said Greenhill "was here in Pensacola all the time."
A police report filed by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office in Pensacola shows that a man purported to be a drug dealer was arrested Oct. 2 in the trailer in the Pensacola park where Glass said Greenhill was living. Police allege the man entered the home to collect money Greenhill owed him.
Cindy Greenhill said she and her three children fled from the trailer in Livingston as Katrina approached. She says she took the two youngest children — Ellis and Annie — to the home of their father, Ellis Merchant, in Denham Springs, La., and that she and her son, Austin, went to a shelter at Denham Springs High School.
She claims that when she returned to the trailer in Livingston, water covered all but the roof of her car parked nearby. "I've never seen so much water, and I'm from Louisiana," she said.
Authorities in Louisiana previously told The Herald-Whig that the claim sounded true, since mandatory evacuations had been issued for the Livingston area and that many homes there were damaged by the hurricane. However, two sources have subsequently confirmed that the Greenhill trailer was not one of them.
Doug Greenhill said many low-lying areas near the Tickfaw River were damaged, but his home hasn't been touched by floodwaters since he bought it in 1983. High winds from Katrina sent a tree limb through the roof of the trailer. Greenhill said he received assistance from FEMA to pay for repairs to the roof, but has not spent that money and is now living in a different city.
Ray Chidester with the Livingston Parish Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness confirmed during a subsequent on-site visit that the trailer suffered no flood damage.
Asked about claims that floodwaters never reached the trailer in Louisiana, Greenhill said, "No. I mean, no, they (the police) would have let me in it to get my stuff."
CUSTODY OF THE CHILDREN
Court documents in Louisiana and Florida show that she lost custody of her three children last spring before the hurricane struck.
She told officials with the Red Cross that her son, Austin, was with her in October in Quincy, and she received assistance, such as clothing and shoes, for him. However, Austin is living at Greenville Hills Academy, a youth detention center in Greenville, Fla.
Rodney Tanton, Greenhill's first ex-husband and Austin's biological father, said Austin has been at the academy for five months and has never been to Quincy. On April 20, Escambia County District Court 1 placed Austin with his father and barred Cindy Greenhill from having contact with Austin.
When contacted, Cindy Greenhill said Austin is now "in juvenile." Asked when she last saw Austin, Greenhill said, "It was right before Thanksgiving in Quincy. Then my brother came and got him."
Rodney Tanton's wife, Tracey Tanton, said Austin has seen his mother only once since April 20. When asked if it was possible for Austin to have seen his mother last month, Tracey Tanton said, "That's not possible. There is no way."
Greenhill shared custody of her two youngest children — Ellis and Annie — with their father, Ellis Merchant Jr., for several years. However, the 21st Judicial District Court in Denham Springs granted full custody of Ellis and Annie to their father and his wife, Alecia Merchant, on April 4. Alecia Merchant says the children have not seen Cindy Greenhill since mid-April.
Cindy Greenhill did not dispute that she no longer has custody of her children.
Chidester, who drove to the trailer in Livingston and talked with neighbors after hearing of Cindy Greenhill's claims, said he learns almost daily about more people in Louisiana trying to get money from FEMA through fraudulent hurricane-related claims.
"You know why people scam FEMA?" he said. "Because they can."
Contact News Coordinator David Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember the old saying " For every lie you tell you will have to tell two more to cover it?"
If thats true she must be up to number 43,164 by now!