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HOUSTON – A 45-year-old Houston area resident has pleaded guilty to fraudulently applying for and receiving a newly rebuilt house worth $314,000, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Christopher Montealegre admitted to one count of theft of government funds after he knowingly applied for relief intended for victims the hurricane impacted through a program the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administered. Montealegre received assistance in the form of a newly re-built house. The home was rebuilt using federal funds which were intended for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Congress allocated funds to Texas as a special appropriation associated with a Presidentially Declared Disaster in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The funds help to support communities working to build stronger and more resilient neighborhoods.

“Christopher Montealegre exploited a program intended to assist vulnerable victims of Hurricane Harvey and used those funds for his own personal enrichment,” said Hamdani. “Public resources for disaster relief should go to the victims that actually need them, not to enrich private actors like Montealegre.”

“Montealegre’s alleged conduct is disturbing, especially during this time when the public is reminded of the devastation that historic storms leave with thousands of victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Bertrand Nelson for HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), Southcentral Region. “The taxpayer has no tolerance for those who steal from Federal public aid – the sole goal of which is to help victims rebuild and move forward with their lives. We will continue to work with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office to aggressively pursue fraudsters who steal disaster grant funds to enrich themselves.” 

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison accepted the plea and has set sentencing for Aug 8. At that time, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Montealegre was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

HUD-OIG conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Lansden and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Shalimar Addy prosecuted the case.