JUNE 14, 2006
The so-called victims of hurricane Katrina portrayed by the media as poor folks wrongly neglected by the U.S. Government, spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer assistance dollars on outrageous things such as divorces, luxury vacations and even a sex change.
After the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed debit cards, worth thousands each, to assist victims with living expenses such as food, clothes and medicine. Instead, many of the recipients spent the money on adult products, professional football tickets and expensive alcohol.
The abuse has been well-documented in thorough audits by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has published a series of reports with detailed information. This week, GAO officials testified before a House committee.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the subcommittee overseeing the investigation of post-hurricane aid, called it “an assault on the American taxpayer” and encouraged prosecutors at every level to pursue and incarcerate the criminals for a long time.
The GAO estimates that between $600 million and $1.4 billion were used in a fraudulent manner by hurricane victims. Besides abusing the debit cards, some recipients collected lodging money twice because FEMA gave them individual rental assistance and paid hotels directly.
One incensed blogger personally witnessed the fraudulent spending while shopping at a popular department store in Austin. An expensive suit she liked but couldn’t afford was purchased by a Katrina “refugee” using the government-issued debit card. As one blog states, this could have caused laughter if there weren’t so much money coerced from unwitting taxpayers, a lot of whom probably won’t even hear of this fraud.
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