Former Jonesboro Woman Sentenced for Katrina Fraud

JANUARY 17, 2007 - Posted at 3:55 p.m. CST

EAST ST. LOUIS, IL - A former Jonesboro woman who scammed thousands of dollars in federal aid after falsely claiming she watched her two daughters get swept to their deaths by Hurricane Katrina was sentenced to four years in federal prison today.

Tina Marie Winston, 34, of Bellville, Illinois, apologized to U.S. District Judge William Stiehl and asked for leniency.  But Stiehl called the time in prison "appropriate."

He ordered Winston to pay $23,983 for various scams covering more than a decade.

Winston pleaded guilty in October to defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Katrina's wake in September 2005 by using a bogus Social Security number to file for hurricane assistance.

Winston had said Katrina's floodwaters washed away her two young daughters and destroyed everything she owned.  But the 34-year-old is actually childless and the girls never existed.

Winston moved to Illinois from Jonesboro in July 2004 and wasn't close to the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit more than a year later.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)