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Sep 15, 2010 10:00 AM

More than 1,300 Charged with Hurricane Fraud

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - More than 1,300 people have been charged in
federal fraud cases related to the 2005 hurricanes in the five
years since the storms struck the Gulf Coast, the Justice
Department said Tuesday.
A report released by the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force says
investigators have screened more than 39,000 fraud-related tips and
complaints since the 2005 storm season. As of Sept. 1, 1,360 people
have been charged in federal courts with fraud related to
hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma, the report says.
Most of the cases have involved attempts to fraudulently obtain
disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the
American Red Cross. But the task force's report also touted its
prosecutions of identity theft, procurement fraud and public
corruption.
Many people managed to fraudulently obtain money from FEMA and
the Red Cross due to their "absence of effective fraud-prevention
internal controls and measures," the report says. But the task
force credits both agencies with improving their abilities to root
out possible fraud.
"While it is always vital in any disaster to provide prompt
financial support to victims whose jobs or businesses have been
severely affected by the disaster, a balance also must be struck
between speed of payment and effective measures to verify
identities and other information that claimants provide," the
report says.

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