News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Warns of
Potential Tornando and Flood
Related Disaster Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2011

OXFORD, Miss. – John Marshall Alexander, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, is urging Mississippi residents and businesses to be aware of and report suspected fraudulent activity related to tornado and flood relief operations and federal funding for disaster victims.

“It is of vital importance that businesses and individuals in North Mississippi who have been affected by the recent tornadoes and rising flood waters receive the assistance and funding necessary to recover,” stated Alexander. “In order to ensure that those victims receive the relief that is available, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to pursuing disaster-related fraud as a top priority and prosecuting those individuals who may seek to fraudulently divert funds from those in need. Disaster benefits are necessary to get victims back on their feet; none of the relief benefits should be lost to fraud. ”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already begun receiving applications for disaster assistance as a result of the tornadoes that passed through the southeast last week, and the agency has started distributing funds to disaster survivors. The number of applications and distributions is expected to grow considerably in the days and weeks ahead, as recovery efforts from the tornadoes continue and anticipated damage is realized from the rising flood waters of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. As benefits are provided by FEMA and other agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and other federal, state, and local agencies to protect those benefits and ensure they are not taken away from storm and flood victims through fraudulent activity.

Charles K. Edwards, Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General stated, “The Office of Inspector General places a high priority on investigating and prosecuting federal crimes that affect the integrity of DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief programs. Credible allegations or evidence of such crimes will be investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted to the full extent of federal law.”

The public also is reminded to apply a critical eye, ask questions, and do research before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of storm and flood victims. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, and telephone calls. A list of tips for identifying or avoiding becoming a victim of disaster fraud is attached.

In response to a significant amount of fraud associated with federal disaster relief programs that went into effect following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, a Joint Command Center was established in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2005. The command center, now known as the National Center for Disaster Fraud, has received and screened more than 46,000 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 the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm or flood victims, or if you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, please 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 disaster@leo.gov.

“Investigators and prosecutors are ready to respond to credible allegations of fraud and abuse. If you suspect fraud, I urge you to call the National Disaster Fraud Hotline,” Alexander said.

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Disaster Fraud Hotline

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims, 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:

disaster@leo.gov


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