North Floridians Reminded to Report Disaster Related Fraud
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – United States Attorney Christopher P. Canova is urging North Florida residents and businesses to be aware of and report suspected fraudulent activity related to hurricane relief operations and federal funding for victims of Hurricane Irma.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of flood 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We do not tolerate fraud,” said United States Attorney Christopher P. Canova. “Individuals, families, and businesses have suffered, and will continue to suffer, tremendous losses. Emergency funds are needed to help them get back on their feet. Dozens of agencies, investigators, and prosecutors are ready to respond to credible allegations of fraud and abuse. If you are aware of fraud, we urge you to call the National Disaster Fraud Hotline.”
In anticipation of unprecedented fraud in connection with federal disaster relief following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, a Joint Command Center was established in Baton Rouge, LA, to coordinate reports of fraud. The Command Center, now known as the National Center for Disaster Fraud, has since expanded its mission to include suspected fraud from any natural or manmade disaster. More than 20 federal agencies participate in the center, allowing it to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information. To date, the National Center for Disaster Fraud has received and screened more than 70,000 complaints involving 40 different disasters, resulting in 50,000 referrals to law enforcement agencies. In connection with Hurricane Katrina alone, there were 1,370 federal disaster fraud prosecutions involving 1,463 defendants in 49 different federal districts.
Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before giving contributions or personal identifying information to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of hurricane victims. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings and telephone calls, and similar methods. Please also be sure to undertake necessary inquiries before giving contributions to anyone soliciting contributions on behalf of disaster victims.
Please report any suspicions of fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (toll free at (866) 720-5721, (225) 334-4707 fax, or email@example.com). Fraud may also be reported directly to the United States Attorney’s Office in Tallahassee by contacting Assistant US Attorney Michael Harwin at (850) 942-8430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.