KEY WEST, December 23, 2019 – A Key West man has learned that time can’t insulate oneself from consequences for crimes.
On December 17, Monroe County Judge Mark Wilson placed Francesco Drago, 51, of Key West on 18 months of probation after Drago pleaded no contest to grand theft for ripping off the Federal Emergency Management Agency in emergency aid following the devastating Hurricane Irma.
Drago was also ordered to pay FEMA restitution of $3,864, which he did up front; and $423 in court costs, a $100 fine, $140 to the State Attorney’s Office for the cost of prosecution and investigation and $50 monthly to the state Department of Corrections for his cost of supervision. Assistant State Attorney Christina Cory represented the state.
Drago was arrested on November 27, 2018, more than a year after the hurricane. State Attorney’s Office Investigator Frank Zamora brought the case working with FEMA and agents Brian Calvary and Joseph Casciotta with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.
The Category 4 Irma struck on September 10, 2017, destroying or damaging thousands of Florida Keys homes, and FEMA began accepting applications for monetary help for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses. Not everyone who applied and received assistance was eligible to do so.
Among them was Drago. He falsely claimed he lived in a mobile home on Park Avenue in Key West when Irma struck, a claim that resulted in him receiving $3,864 in FEMA assistance. Drago filed his claim for assistance three days after the hurricane.
Drago lived in the trailer with another person from March 2017 to July 14, 2017, when he moved out. “When Drago moved out, he removed all of his property from the residence,” according to Zamora’s arrest affidavit.
The hurricane wouldn’t hit for another two months yet Drago told a FEMA inspector after the hurricane the trailer was his primary residence.