Four callous cons busted trying to benefit from fire

How could you?

A pair of San Franciscans and two San Bruno residents are being called heartless cons for allegedly attempting to swipe financial aid and benefits meant for victims of the horrific San Bruno fire that killed four people and devastated a neighborhood in that city Sept. 9.

They allegedly pretended to be residents within the burn zone so they could milk up to $1,500 in benefits and financial aid that are being offered to victims courtesy of companies such as Old Navy, AT&T, Lenardi’s Grocery Store and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., officials said.

Meanwhile, throngs of fire victims who lost family members, their homes or were injured are bracing for an arduous recovery. In all, 37 homes were destroyed after a 30-inch natural-gas pipeline exploded.

The suspects — two San Francisco residents and two San Bruno residents — allegedly submitted fraudulent driver license applications with the Department of Motor Vehicles using addresses in the burn zone area, according to DMV investigators and the San Bruno Police Department.

They hoped for free benefits and financial aid, investigators said. DMV employees working at the aid center in San Bruno exposed the frauds, DMV investigators said.

San Bruno cops arrested Niesha Taylro and Deonte Bennett, both of San Francisco, at the center, investigators said. Sonya Smith and Lisa Justin, of San Bruno, were later arrested at their homes, they said. They were arrested Wednesday on multiple counts of burglary, perjury, and submitting false or forged documents to a government agency.

All four are now staying at their new address — San Mateo County Jail.

“For individuals to take advantage of a horrific situation is unconscionable, and will not be tolerated,” DMV Director George Valverde said in a statement.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Mayor London Breed said the city would pause reopening plans in order to “make sure we continue our cautious and deliberate approach.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF slows down reopening after COVID-19 cases rise

Restaurants no longer permitted to increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent

Toilet (Shutterstock)
Table salt and poop: Testing for COVID-19 in S.F. sewage

The City’s sewers could provide an early warning of fresh outbreaks

CCSF file photo
Workforce development fund to support training programs at City College

Supervisors back plans to use $500K toward economic recovery efforts through CCSF

Lakeshore Elementary School was closed in March shortly before SFUSD closed all schools due to coronavirus concerns. The district is now working to prepare all elementary schools to reopen by mid-January.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
School district preparing buildings for hybrid learning

SFUSD plans to use 72 elementary schools and 12 early education sites for first phase of reopening

Most Read