2 Sentenced In San Bruno Explosion Victim Scam; 1 Released
SAN BRUNO (BCN) – Two women were sentenced to county jail Wednesday after they pleaded no contest to posing as victims of last year’s deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno, but one has since been released due to time already served in jail, prosecutors said.
Sonya Smith, 44, and Lisa Justin, 42, pleaded no contest to felony charges of attempting to give fraudulent information to PG&E in order to dupe the utility company into providing them victim-relief money, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Smith and Justin, both San Bruno residents, were spotted at a Department of Motor Vehicles location soon after the Sept. 9 pipeline segment explosion under the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood, which killed eight people and damaged or destroyed more than 50 homes, according to Wagstaffe and police.
The pair had filled out DMV forms that claimed they were disaster victims who needed new identification. They apparently used an address of a San Bruno home that was found on the Internet, Wagstaffe said.
DMV employees and police officers caught Smith and Justin, and the women were then arrested. Their no contest plea is for a felony count of burglary and another felony count of perjury, Wagstaffe said.
The court rejected a petition to put Smith and Justin in state prison, instead sentencing them to county jail, Wagstaffe said.
Smith was sentenced to one year in jail. Justin was sentenced to 312 days in county jail, but received enough credit from her initial 156 days in jail to be released, Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.
Likewise to Justin, Smith received credit from her initial 156 days in jail, and will only serve the remaining approximately 50 days on her one-year sentence, Guidotti said.
The women will also have to complete more than 200 hours of public service, undergo drug tests, and pay more than $300 in fines and fees, Wagstaffe said.
Days after the explosion, Wagstaffe issued a warning that officials would aggressively hunt scammers trying to exploit relief aid from the explosion.
“We view them as vermin,” he said. “And we’re going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”