An Illinois woman mourns her two young daughters, swept to their deaths in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. It’s a tragic and terrifying story. It’s also a lie.
An Alabama woman applies for disaster aid for hurricane damage. She files 28 claims for addresses in four states. It’s all a sham.
Two California men help stage Internet auctions designed to help Katrina relief organizations. Those, too, are bogus.
More than 18 months after Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast, authorities are chipping away at a mountain of fraud cases that, by some estimates, involve thousands of people who bilked the federal government and charities out of hundreds of millions of dollars intended to aid storm victims.
The full scope of Katrina fraud may never be known, but this much is clear: It stretches far beyond the Gulf Coast, like the hurricane evacuees themselves. So far, more than 600 people have been charged in federal cases in 22 states — from Florida to Oregon — and the District of Columbia.
The frauds range in value from a few thousand dollars to more than $700,000. Complaints are still pouring in and several thousand possible cases are in the pipeline — enough work to keep authorities busy for five to eight years, maybe more.
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