SAN BRUNO (CBS 5/ KCBS / AP) – Four people are accused of posing as victims of a gas pipeline explosion in a San Francisco suburb in an effort to get free food and other aid, authorities said Thursday.

Niesha Taylor and Deonte Bennett, a couple from San Francisco, were arrested Tuesday at a San Bruno assistance center. Sonya Smith and Lisa Justin, who live three miles from the devastated neighborhood, were arrested later in the day.

Authorities said the four went to the assistance center and submitted false addresses of homes affected by the explosion to Department of Motor Vehicle officials.

They were seeking new drivers licenses that would make them eligible for benefits reserved for explosion victims, said Calvin Woo, a supervising investigator for the DMV.

“Some of the flags were that they couldn’t remember who their landlord was,” Woo said.

Victims of the blast are eligible for free cellular telephones, food and clothing store and supermarket gift cards, among other items.

“There are people out there that are just very bad,” Woo said. “If there’s any opportunity to take advantage of situations like this, they’ll do it.”

Smith, 44, and Justin, 42, both of San Bruno, were arraigned Thursday on five felony counts, including commercial burglary, perjury and filing false documents. Both pleaded not guilty, said San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney John Wilson.

Smith and Justin were being held on $100,000 bail. Both will be represented by an attorney who has yet to be assigned, according to Wilson.

Bennett and Taylor, both 25, have not yet been charged and are free on $25,000 bail, according to San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Bennett’s attorney, Joe O’Sullivan, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he believes there was a mistake and that his client would be absolved of any wrongdoing.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (9)
  1. former sanbruno resident says:


  2. Alfred E, Newman says:

    Show the mugshots

  3. JT says:

    Pond sucking scum! They can go to hell for all I care!

  4. bubba jones says:

    Niesha and Deonte eh? What more is there to say?

  5. dp says:

    I’d do a lot worse than that if i couldn’t afford food and other necessary supplies just to live. Oh wait, we have government funded programs just for that purpose. I guess it takes less time to drive down to the dmv and stand in line for 3 days than it takes to fill out a form on the internet. Oh wait, it doesn’t take more time, it’s actually LESS time. But wait, some people can’t afford internet, but wait, we have public internet stations and free wifi at locations all around the city. But wait that takes gas and gas costs money, but wait we a free transportation programs, oh yea, and legs. Maybe they don’t have legs? She’s obviously standing in that photo, if she doesn’t have legs then that’s a really tiny podium. I guess it’s possible somebody would manufacture tiny podiums, there’s really no market for it, they would indeed be a monopoly. Smart move tiny podium producers!

  6. iran sanchez says:

    Are you freaking kidding me ? There is a special place in hell for people like that!!!!

  7. posavea says:

    Shame on these people, and those who post phony charities.