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Man pleads guilty to stealing $100,000 from MDA

NEW ORLEANS  — A Harahan, La., man has pleaded guilty to stealing government funds.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten says Vernon Ponder pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon.

Letten says Ponder applied to the Mississippi Development Authority and to the U.S. Small Business Association for money to repair his vacation home in Bay St. Louis after it was damaged by Hurricane Karina in 2005. He says Ponder falsely claimed the damaged home was his primary residence when it was not.

Ponder also used that information on an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As a result, prosecutors say Ponder received $100,000 from MDA, $10,000 from SBA and more than $7,100 from FEMA.

Ponder faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is Jan. 26.

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