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FEMA never in the right

 
 
Baldimo
 
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 10:20 am
WASHINGTON - The government doled out as much as $1.4 billion in bogus assistance to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, getting hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and even a divorce lawyer, congressional investigators have found.
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.
Agents from the General Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, went undercover to expose the ease of receiving disaster expense checks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The GAO concluded that as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in FEMA help to individuals after the two hurricanes was unwarranted.
The findings are detailed in testimony, obtained by The Associated Press, that is to be delivered at a hearing Wednesday by the House Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations.
To dramatize the problem, GAO provided lawmakers with a copy of a $2,358 U.S. Treasury check for rental assistance that an undercover agent got using a bogus address. The money was paid even after FEMA learned from its inspector that the undercover applicant did not live at the address.
"This is an assault on the American taxpayer," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee that will conduct the hearing. "Prosecutors from the federal level down should be looking at prosecuting these crimes and putting the criminals who committed them in jail for a long time."
FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker said Tuesday that the agency, already criticized for a poor response to Katrina, makes its highest priority during a disaster "to get help quickly to those in desperate need of our assistance."
"Even as we put victims first, we take very seriously our responsibility to be outstanding stewards of taxpayer dollars, and we are careful to make sure that funds are distributed appropriately," he said.
FEMA said it has identified more than 1,500 cases of potential fraud after Katrina and Rita and has referred those cases to the Homeland Security inspector general. The agency said it has identified $16.8 million in improperly awarded disaster relief money and has started efforts to collect the money.
The GAO said it was 95 percent confident that improper and potentially fraudulent payments were much higher �- between $600 million and $1.4 billion.
The investigative agency said it found people lodged in hotels often were paid twice, since FEMA gave them individual rental assistance and paid hotels directly. FEMA paid California hotels $8,000 to house one individual �- the same person who received three rental assistance payments for both disasters.
In another instance, FEMA paid an individual $2,358 in rental assistance, while at the same time paying about $8,000 for the same person to stay 70 nights at more than $100 per night in a Hawaii hotel.
FEMA also could not establish that 750 debit cards worth $1.5 million even went to Katrina victims, the auditors said.
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.
FEMA paid millions of dollars to more than 1,000 registrants who used names and Social Security numbers belonging to state and federal prisoners for expedited housing assistance. The inmates were in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.
FEMA made about $5.3 million in payments to registrants who provided a post office box as their damaged residence, including one who got $2,748 for listing an Alabama post office box as the damaged property.
To demonstrate how easy it was to hoodwink FEMA, the GAO told of an individual who used 13 different Social Security numbers �- including the person's own �- to receive $139,000 in payments on 13 separate registrations for aid. All the payments were sent to a single address.
Likewise, another person used a damaged property address located within the grounds of Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans to request disaster aid. Public records show no record of the registrant ever living in New Orleans.
Instead, records indicate that for the past five years, the registrant lived in West Virginia �- at the address provided to FEMA, the GAO said.
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Well this doesn't surprise me in the least. FEMA was bagged on for not doing enough to help people so then they go over board and they still get busted. It is this reason many of us thought it was a bad idea for FEMA to just hand out money to everyone. They should have had to prove that they needed the money before handing it over. The only problem with that is then people still would have complained that FEMA wasn't doing enough and wasn't getting the money into the hands of those who needed it.

Where does FEMA do things better the next time when it comes to handing out money to stay off of everyone's **** list?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 1,024 • Replies: 6
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woiyo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 10:48 am
You can "blame the people", but the reality is the govt blindly threw out money and this had to be expected.

We have stupid people voted into govt who hire stupid people to work for the govt.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 10:51 am
I can remember thinking at the time what a goddman fiasco the 2000 dollar 'debit card' was going to be, and it turned out to be just that.

Of course, while this is a problem, we spend 6-7 times this much in Iraq every month, so in the long run, it's not such a big deal. One of those 'fix it the next time around' items.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
Baldimo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 11:44 am
Cycloptichorn wrote:
I can remember thinking at the time what a goddman fiasco the 2000 dollar 'debit card' was going to be, and it turned out to be just that.

Of course, while this is a problem, we spend 6-7 times this much in Iraq every month, so in the long run, it's not such a big deal. One of those 'fix it the next time around' items.

Cycloptichorn


I know most of you complain about the money spent in Iraq and to a certain extent Afghanistan. I can tell you that from what I see with first hand knowledge is that most of the money that KBR spends is well worth it.

The food services is done by KBR and I think the food isn't that bad. I know here in Kanadahar I eat steak and shrimp on Friday night and on Saturday we eat Crab legs and Lobster. Before you get all mad just know that the "good food" we eat here you would never pay for back home. In fact you would more then likely send it back and ask for a refund. Here it is good. The money that is spent to provide us with workout facilities and to keep those up with current and working equipment isn't cheap. The "game room" also isn't cheap to keep up.

I don't have an issue on what they spend because most of it is spent on me and my fellow soldiers to keep us comfortable and from being bored. Before you complain to much about the money being spent think about us here and our families back home because a majority of that money is indeed for us.
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Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 11:53 am
I'm pretty sure that most of the $10 billion that is spent per month probably isn't being spent on dinners for soldiers and game rooms, baldi.

Keep your head down.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
Baldimo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 12:29 pm
Cycloptichorn wrote:
I'm pretty sure that most of the $10 billion that is spent per month probably isn't being spent on dinners for soldiers and game rooms, baldi.

Keep your head down.

Cycloptichorn


Your right it is also being spent on the fuel that keeps the generators running that keeps my lights on. It is being spent on the fuel that keeps the helicopters in the air that I work on. It is being spent on parts that keep the helicopters flying (they aren't cheap). It is also being spent on the bullets and bombs that we use to fight with. Your right it is much more then dinner and games. Uniforms and boots that I need to work in is also paid for by that money.
0 Replies
 
Dartagnan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jun, 2006 01:23 pm
Our troops should have everything they need to be safe and comfortable.

Having said that, I read today that the cost of our military operations in Afghanistan Iraq will be $320 billion, including the amount just approved by the House (according to the Congressional Research Service). With no end in sight.

That's simply insane...
0 Replies
 
 

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