U.S. Attorney’s Office Hosts Training on Disaster Fraud Prosecution
BIRMINGHAM – Representatives from the National Center for Disaster Fraud were here today to help U.S. Attorney’s Offices in several states recently struck by disasters prepare for the fraud expected to follow the devastation, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance announced.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama hosted the meeting with officials from the national center in Baton Rouge, La., an official from the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, representatives from U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi, and members of federal law enforcement. More than 40 people attended the meeting.
“Just as the tornadoes of April 27 brought so much damage and destruction to Alabama, other recent tornadoes and floods have devastated cities and towns in Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, and other states,” Vance said. “We, in the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in those communities, want to ensure that money meant for victims of the disasters gets to those victims. Today’s meeting brings us the benefit of experience from those who have prosecuted fraud in the wake of huge disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. We will aggressively prosecute disaster related fraud,” Vance said.
Donald Cazayoux, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, based in Baton Rouge, and executive director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, along with Kathie Wylie, deputy director of the center, briefed participants on the center’s operation and the resources it can provide.
Jonathan J. Rusch, deputy chief for strategy and policy in the fraud section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, discussed the types of fraud to anticipate and the available statutes that can be used to prosecute them.
James Letten, U.S. Attorney for the New Orleans-based Eastern District of Louisiana, who has prosecuted numerous fraud cases in the years since Hurricane Katrina, discussed his approach to investigating and prosecuting a heavy fraud caseload after that disaster.
The National Center for Disaster Fraud was initially formed as a joint command center in Baton Rouge in response to the significant amount of fraud associated with federal disaster relief programs that went into effect following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The center has received and screened nearly 48,000 complaints of disaster fraud and referred more than 30,000 of those to law enforcement for investigation.
The NCDF – based on its extensive expertise and established infrastructure – has helped victims of fraud related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Ike and Gustav, as well as those affected by severe storms in more than 35 different states, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
More than 20 federal agencies participate in the center, allowing it to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information. To date, the Department of Justice has charged more than 1,300 defendants in 47 judicial districts throughout the country for disaster fraud related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the Gulf Coast oil spill and other disasters.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims, or believe you are aware of fraud related to a disaster or disaster relief benefits, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you believe your organization has expertise or resources that could improve outcomes for ex-offenders re-entering society, please e-mail our Community Outreach Coordinator at Jeremy.Sherer@usdoj.gov
or call 205-244-2019.