Siskiyou man who pled guilty to FEMA fraud two years ago still hasn't been sentenced
Two years after he pled guilty to seven counts of FEMA fraud for the misuse of more than $50,000 intended to help Siskiyou and Shasta counties recruit and train new firefighters, Weed's Sam Lanier has not been sentenced.
Lanier – the former CEO of the Dunsmuir tech company FireWhat – is scheduled to appear again in court on Nov. 3.
Lanier's attorneys have filed a motion in federal court disputing how much was misused; court documents allege the amount is $1.3 million.
Lanier, 42, is accused of submitting false reimbursement requests to FEMA – or having others submit requests for him – and using the money "for his own benefit – to prop up his failing business," according to a federal response to the filing. The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges Lanier used the funds to pay for his own meals and travel and to repay a loan from an investor into another of his companies in a failed quest to buy Mt. Shasta Ski Park.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert, Lanier used more than two-thirds of the grant money that was intended for the two associations from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program between June 2013 and March 2018.
The purpose of these grants – each more than $1 million – was to assure that communities have adequate protection from fire-related hazards, and to help the recipients attain and maintain 24-hour staffing, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Lanier faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10 million fine, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
FireWhat was once a thriving tech business in Siskiyou County. It was founded in 2010 “to bring innovation to the technology-deprived industry of wildfire response” and provided custom GIS technology tools to map and track assets in and out of the field.
Lanier stepped down as CEO of FireWhat in August, 2017 and less than a month afterward, the company closed its doors.
Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.