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NEW ORLEANS -- Like a star-crossed character from one of her steamy romance novels, an accomplished Garden District author who dodged two earlier scam allegations has finally met her match.

Ruth Leslie Goodman, who written more than 20 books under the pen name Meagan McKinney, pleaded guilty this week in an elaborate case of Katrina fraud.

Goodman confessed to defrauding FEMA, the Road Home program and the Small Business Administration of more than $439,000. She faces up to 45 years after pleading guilty to mail fraud, theft, making false statements and passport fraud, but her sentence probably will be much lighter because of her plea bargain.

Federal prosecutors laid out a complex scheme in which Goodman falsified documents to make it appear she owned 10 rental properties that actually belonged to her father. Goodman then submitted doctored pre-Katrina work receipts and inflated rental amounts to make it appear the properties were damaged in the storm.

Goodman also admitted falsifying documents to obtain a Canadian passport.

Goodman was charged twice before in bold schemes, but neither case was prosecuted. In 2004, she was accused of insurance fraud for claiming flood damage to antiques and fine art that turned out to be undamaged modern replicas.

And in 2005, Goodman was charged after she made an insurance claim for Swiss diamond bracelets worth $1.8 million that she said were stolen during a visit to Oakwood Center mall. She later admitted she never owned the jewelry. Federal prosecutors said Goodman ran her Katrina scams from her an historic Garden District home known as 'Nevermore.'

On the dust jackets of her books, Goodman describes herself as an avid equestrian, caretaker of stray animals and mother of two sons. Originally from Washington, D.C., she holds a degree in biology from Columbia University in New York and fell in love with New Orleans during a stint as a visiting student at Tulane's Newcomb College. Her first book, 'My Wicked Enchantress,' was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America Gold Medallion.

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