St. Charles Herald-Guide

Charges dropped against husband, wife charged with Katrina insurance fraud

Jonathan Menard - January 18, 2013

Santra Perdue was teaching class in Jefferson Parish when she first heard the whispers.

Apparently a group of her students had Googled her name and found an article detailing Perdueís arrest in St. Charles Parish in 2006. While all the charges in the case were dropped, the article could still be found online.

"It was crazy at school the entire day," she said.

Perdueís arrest took place at a difficult time in her life and was a complete misunderstanding, she says. She and her husband, Zebedee, were originally charged with two counts of insurance fraud and felony theft.

Authorities at first believed that the couple made a false claim to the State Farm Catastrophe Office in Luling stating that their BMW, parked at a residence in Harvey, sustained damage due to flooding during Hurricane Katrina. Samples taken from the vehicle showed that the water contained chlorides, which are not characteristically found in flood water.

But Perdue, who has been an educator in Jefferson Parish for more than 20 years, did not even have her car during Hurricane Katrina. She and her husband evacuated for Katrina and returned home to find that their BMW was missing.

Police eventually located the car and the couple noticed water damage inside. However, the damage was caused by a faulty convertible top, not floodwater. The Perdues didnít find that out until after they were arrested and the test had been performed on the car.

"We didnít know that it wasnít flood damage," Perdue said. "We just assumed it was because when our car was located it had water damage inside. It sat outside unattended during Katrina and we thought it was damaged by flood water."

It eventually came to light that the coupleís 14-year-old son, Zebedee Perdue III, had taken the vehicle to Harvey. In a tragic twist, the boy was murdered by another 14-year-old in Harvey in March of 2006.

Before the couple could deal with the fraud charges, they first had to go through their sonís murder trial.

"It was a very difficult time," Perdue said.

When it came time to focus on the charges filed against them by State Farm, Perdue said a test performed on the car by BMW, which showed that water had been leaking in through the convertible top, exonerated them.

Along with the fraud charges, a felony theft charge against the couple was also dropped. The Perdues had received an insurance check from State Farm while they were in another state and had cashed the check. However, Perdue said they paid back all of the money they were given.

"When going through trials and tribulations in your life, know that itís God and stay strong in your faith and he will see you through," Perdue said.