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Inspector Is Sentenced for Falsifying Quake Claim

November 16, 1994|ABIGAIL GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The first of four building inspectors charged with falsifying inspection reports after the Northridge earthquake pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years probation, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay $5,100 restitution, the U.S. attorney's office said Tuesday.

Phyllis Hawkins, 36, of Moreno Valley, was working for Vulcan Disaster Services, which contracted with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to inspect the damages suffered by those who had filed disaster assistance claims.

For between $30 and $40 per inspection, Hawkins was supposed to personally inspect the damaged home and verify the identity of the applicant.

But Hawkins later admitted to authorities that she never inspected the damage of between 10 and 20 applicants and made up the information in her reports, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Nathan Hochman.

Hawkins was originally charged with falsifying six reports but pleaded guilty in July to one of those charges. Her attorney was not available for comment.

"She would have to drive from the Moreno Valley into the San Fernando Valley to conduct the inspections and after a while, it just wasn't worth it to her to make that drive," Hochman said. "It was easier to just falsify the numbers."

The sentence, handed down Monday, was for falsifying the report on a Mission Hills home. In it, Hawkins detailed $6,600 damage to the homeowners' vacuum cleaner, washer, refrigerator and kitchen range. None of those items, however, was in need of repair.

Although in some cases, Hawkins approved more money than people actually needed, in other cases, her failure to inspect homes deprived disaster victims of entitled funds.

Of the four inspectors charged with submitting false reports, one other has also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing, Hochman said.

More than 30 people have been charged with submitting false claims; 29 have pleaded guilty, Hochman said. Sentences for those applicants have ranged from several hundred hours of community service to six months in jail, Hochman said.

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