SEPTEMBER 28, 2006
A national fraud task force has delivered a scathing report to the U.S. Attorney General detailing the widespread corruption among government and charity workers during the aftermath of last year’s three devastating hurricanes.
As a result, the Department of Justice has charged more than 400 people – many of them government employees – nationwide who illegally benefited from the massive hurricane cleanup.
Based in Baton Rouge Louisiana, the multi-agency task force includes various local law enforcement agencies as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Secret Service.
The task force has focused on investigating government-contract and procurement fraud, public corruption, government and private-sector benefit fraud, identity theft and false charities. Its 54-page report reveals 6,500 fraud complaints ranging from California to Texas, Mississippi and Florida.
Most of them were associated with Hurricane Katrina, the largest and most destructive natural disaster in history. More than 300 of those charged, in 30 federal districts, have actually been convicted and many more are expected to follow. Convictions include a Florida man who fraudulently solicited charity money for hurricane victims, an Illinois woman who fraudulently collected federal displacement money and two government employees who solicited bribes from a Louisiana contractor.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has vowed to continue prosecuting disaster-related fraud for years to come, saying that “to take advantage of the devastation and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast is both shameful and illegal”
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