A former West Virginia official who lost her job in 2016 after she referred to then-first lady Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels” has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to embezzling $18,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), funds that were intended to help flood victims.
Pamela Taylor, who served as the Clay County Development Corp. director, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and two months of house arrest, the local U.S. attorney’s office announced Thursday. She was also fined $10,000.
Taylor pleaded guilty in February to stealing more than $18,000 in relief benefits from the agency intended to help those whose homes were damaged by the 2016 floods that ravaged the state.
The 57-year-old Republican official admitted in court that she wrongfully registered for some of the disaster benefits, claiming that her primary residence was damaged by flooding, forcing her to live in a rental unit.
But investigators found that Taylor’s home was never damaged by the floods and that she was living in her home all along.
In her plea agreement, Taylor also agreed to pay $18,149.04 in restitution. Prosecutors said Thursday that she has paid the money.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger, an Obama appointee, presided over her sentencing hearing.
“There’s no such thing as a little bit of FEMA fraud. Taylor’s fraudulent scheme took FEMA dollars away from those who needed it the most,” U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said in a statement, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Taylor first captured national attention in November 2016 when she said in a Facebook post that “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”