Posted by Tamara
The federal government is cracking down on those who commit fraud under federal and Texas fraud laws. Recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crime, such as charity fraud and insurance fraud.
This task force, chaired by Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, includes members from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas as well as law enforcement in the Northern District are members of the Task Force.
In a recent news story, fifteen individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations of fraud and theft resulting from claims filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to Special Agent in Charge J. Christopher Murphy of the U.S. Secret Service, the indictments filed allege fraud and theft of federal disaster relief funds from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated parts of the south in 2005.
“The defendants are charged today with consciously setting out to steal money meant for Hurricane victims,” U.S. Attorney Alice Martin stated during a press conference today. “They will now face the consequences of the federal justice system.”
Most of the 15 defendants claimed to live in Texas during Hurricane Rita. They each filed claims entitling them to $2,000 in FEMA funds. The federal agents now contend that the information was fraudulent, and in fact, none of the defendants ever lived in Texas. Because, according to the allegations, the defendants realized at the time that the payments were made based on false information, they are charged with fraud.
The maximum penalty for making false claims against the government is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both. The maximum penalty for theft of government property or money is ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or both.
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