DOJ Officials Raise Awareness of Disaster Fraud Hotline for Reporting Oil Spill-Related Schemes
WASHINGTON – As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill clean-up efforts continue and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) opens its doors, the Department of Justice is reminding members of the public to be aware of and report any instances of suspected fraudulent activity related to relief operations and funding for victims.
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Disaster Fraud Hotline at 877-NCDF-GCF (623-3423), the Disaster Fraud Fax at 225-334-4707 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals can also report criminal activity to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI. As part of a public awareness campaign, NCDF contact information is being publicized throughout the Gulf Coast region on 150 electronic billboards and more than 500 posters.
"We will not tolerate fraud schemes that exploit this tragic oil spill to the detriment of residents and businesses along the Gulf Coast," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. "We know that following any disaster, criminals looking to make a quick buck often attempt to prey upon vulnerable disaster victims. Our agents and prosecutors stand ready to take swift and aggressive action against any oil-spill related fraud. We cannot and will not allow unscrupulous individuals to line their own pockets at the expense of men and women who have suffered real losses."
Assistant Attorney General Breuer reinforced that the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners have placed a high priority on the prompt investigation and prosecution of fraud schemes related to the oil spill.
"The NCDF stands ready to take complaints about any and all forms of fraud stemming from the oil spill," said Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Executive Director for the NCDF. "We urge all members of the public who suspect or hear reports of fraud relating to the oil spill to immediately contact the NCDF. All legitimate complaints that the NCDF receives will be immediately screened and referred to appropriate federal investigative agencies for possible criminal investigation and prosecution."
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, certain U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and law enforcement agencies are coordinating to ensure expeditious handling of oil spill-related fraud cases. To enhance effective coordination among prosecutors, federal criminal investigative agencies and inspectors general, the department will host a one-day law enforcement training and coordination conference on oil spill fraud issues in September.
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, La., in 2005. The command center, now known as the National Center for Disaster Fraud, has received and screened more than 39,000 complaints of disaster fraud and referred more than 25,000 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 20 different states, earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires.
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.
To learn more about the NCDF and its efforts to fight fraud related to the oil spill, go to www.justice.gov/criminal/oilspill/.