So now unscrupulous people have bilked the taxpayers out of 1.4 billion dollars by filing false claims in the aftermath of Katrina. FEMA is making changes in the reporting system to prevent future scams--again. We should all feel much better.
Prison inmates, a supposed victim who used a New Orleans cemetery for a home address, and a person who spent 70 days at a Hawaiian hotel all were able to wrongly get taxpayer help, according to evidence that gives a new black eye to the nation's disaster relief agency.
Federal investigators even informed Congress that one man apparently used FEMA assistance money for a sex change operation.
Among the items purchased with the cards:
_an all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic.
_five season tickets to New Orleans Saints professional football games.
_adult erotica products in Houston and "Girls Gone Wild" videos in Santa Monica, Calif.
_Dom Perignon champagne and other alcoholic beverages in San Antonio.
_a divorce lawyer's services in Houston.
"Our forensic audit and investigative work showed that improper and potentially fraudulent payments occurred mainly because FEMA did not validate the identity of the registrant, the physical location of the damaged address, and ownership and occupancy of all registrants at the time of registration," GAO officials said.
How stupid is that?
People received money from submitting P.O. Boxes as "damaged addresses."
One person used thirteen social security numbers to receive damage assistance on thirteen different properties--none of which belonged to him.
How hard can it be to check out recipients before issuing them disaster relief? I mean, doesn't FEMA have access to computers and data bases? What on earth accounts for this kind of incompetence and gross mismanagement of resources?
Meanwhile, some of the victims of Katrina waited months and months for relief.
But, FEMA says that the bugs have been worked out--again--and they're ready for this hurricane season. So I guess we should all relax.
Edited by Spectacles, 14 June 2006 - 07:24 AM.