Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Flood of Fraud

Study Finds Huge Fraud in the Wake of Hurricanes - New York Times:
WASHINGTON, June 13 — As much as $1.4 billion in government disaster aid to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — nearly a quarter of the total — went to bogus or undeserving victims, a new Congressional investigation concludes.
Couldn't get to this yesterday (I have a day job!), but I thought it was just so bad that it needed more attention here. The spin doctors on the right keep saying that some fraud in disaster aid distribution is inevitable, but 25%?! And look at the kinds of "errors" FEMA made:
In one case, a man stayed more than two months on the government tab at a hotel in Hawaii that cost more than $100 a night. At the same time, he was getting $2,358 in government rent assistance, even though he had not been living in the property he claimed was damaged in the storm.

Emergency aid was used to pay for football tickets, the bill at a Hooters in San Antonio, a $200 bottle of Dom Perignon, "Girls Gone Wild" videos, even an all-inclusive weeklong Caribbean vacation, the report says. More than $5 million went to people who had provided cemeteries or post office boxes as the addresses of their damaged property.

FEMA also provided cash or housing assistance to more than 1,000 prison inmates, totaling millions of dollars; one inmate used a post office box to collect $20,000. Some of the inmates may in fact have owned property that was damaged, but most should not have been eligible for the aid.
Don't these people have computers? It wouldn't take much effort to stop some of the most egregious errors.
In another case, 24 payments, totaling $109,708, were sent to a single apartment, where eight people each submitted requests for aid eight times, each time using their own Social Security numbers.

Another person collected 26 payments using 13 different Social Security numbers — a total of $139,000 — even though public records show the individual did not live at any of the addresses reported as damaged.

Aaron T. Walker, a FEMA spokesman, said the agency was moving to correct management weaknesses that might have contributed to the fraud, including establishing a system that will block multiple registrations for aid filed under a single Social Security number.
You mean they didn't have such a "system" in the first place, long before Katrina?!!! This is absurd, especially for a federal agency. If this is the best DHS can do on their budget, we're all screwed!
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