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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Federal Officials Remind The Public To Be On The Lookout For Wildfire-Related Disaster Fraud

U.S. Attorney Alex Tse and FBI Special Agent In Charge John F. Bennett Urge The Public To Report Fraud To The North Bay Disaster Fraud Task Force

SAN FRANCISCO – In the wake of the Mendocino Complex Fires, U.S. Attorney Alex Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett have stepped up efforts to remind the public to be aware of the potential for fraudulent activity in connection with the cleanup of the fires.  

Last year state and federal law enforcement led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined with other local authorities to form the North Bay Disaster Fraud Task Force to combat fraud arising from the North Bay wildfires.  The task force is a cooperative effort between local, state, and federal agencies to share and disseminate information and collaborate on investigations in an effort to streamline the process for preventing and addressing disaster-related fraud.  The task force has worked effectively to combat fraud and will continue to do so as wildfires continue to plague Northern California.

U.S. Attorney Tse stated: “In times of difficulty like the Mendocino Complex Fires, many people respond to their community with a spirit of generosity and a willingness to shoulder the difficulty together.  Others, however, take advantage of the vulnerability to unjustly enrich themselves.  I urge the public to report any suspected fraudulent activity in the aftermath of the recent wildfires to federal and local law enforcement, so that together we can pursue investigation and prosecution of fraud.”

“The FBI has seen criminals target every step of relief and recovery in the face of natural disasters,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  “The FBI is committed to protecting disaster victims from complex theft and fraud schemes.  We ask the public in Northern California to remain vigilant in this time of crisis and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.”

Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before trusting anyone purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims, and to be especially cautious of anyone who contacts you seeking personal identifying information or financial information.  Possible examples of disaster fraud activity may include fake charities claiming to provide relief for victims and individuals submitting false claims for disaster relief.  Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or who believe that they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at disaster@leo.gov or at 866-720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The public can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707. The website for the National Center for Disaster Fraud is  www.justice.gov/diaster-fraud.  Suspected fraudulent activity also can be referred to local and federal law enforcement.
 

Updated September 4, 2018