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Old 09-18-2005, 05:59 PM   #1
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Fraudulent Use of Katrina Debit cards in Houston

I'll just let these articles speak for themselves.

RELIEF FUNDS

11 accused of seeking more checks are arrested
HPD task force is trying to keep the federal money in the right hands and curtail abuse

By MIKE GLENN
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Eleven people were arrested Thursday, accused of trying to collect more than one Katrina aid check from the American Red Cross, Houston police said.

The arrests took place at St. Agnes Baptist Church on the day the Houston Police Department announced the creation of a task force aimed at curtailing fraud and abuse of the relief funds for displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"Our goal is to make those who are legitimately seeking assistance feel safe and to discourage those who want to take advantage of the situation and the survivors," HPD Burglary and Theft Division Lt. Craig Williams said.

With about 30,000 debit cards issued to victims of Hurricane Katrina from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, police acknowledge the potential for abuse.

There have been reported incidents of evacuees making as many as six trips through the lines to receive financial assistance, police said. One man fled St. Agnes on Tuesday after Red Cross volunteers recognized him when he tried to use false identification to obtain a second relief check.

"We're also getting reports of people getting cards stolen or loaning cards out to friends," Williams said.

Those caught trying to get more than one relief check could face charges of providing false information to obtain property — a felony if the amount received is at least $1,500, Williams said.

The officers assigned to the Katrina Debit Card Fraud Task Force have expertise in financial crimes, such as identity theft and credit card and check abuse, officials said.

The task force will not address how the Hurricane Katrina evacuees spend legitimately awarded financial assistance.

"If you want to go buy a plasma TV or Nike tennis shoes, that's your business," Williams said. "We have no control over that."

Likewise, police said, the influx of Katrina relief funds could make evacuees the target of criminals. HPD officials reminded evacuees to guard their personal information and to be aware of their surroundings when using the debit cards.

"We see the potential for hurricane survivors to be abused," department spokesman Alvin Wright said. "We're trying to be proactive and letting the crooks know that we're watching them."

mike.glenn@chron.com



http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory...atrina/3356402

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Sept. 16, 2005, 11:05PM

Crackdown on relief fraud brings more arrests
At least 25 have been accused of trying to obtain money that wasn't meant for them

By ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle



At least 25 people have been arrested and accused of attempting to "double dip" and fraudulently receive Hurricane Katrina relief funds from the American Red Cross, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt announced Friday.

The arrests were made Thursday and Friday at St. Agnes Baptist Church, where the Red Cross has been distributing checks and debit cards meant for evacuees, Hurtt said.

As of Friday night, misdemeanor and felony charges were filed against 11 people. Providing false information is punishable by up to two years in prison, Hurtt said.

The crackdown comes just days after Mayor Bill White and Hurtt announced that such scofflaws would be found and prosecuted and after the creation of a special Houston Police Department unit, the Katrina Debit Card Fraud Task Force.

"We told you we would be very aggressive in arrests and prosecution," Hurtt said at a news conference.

One person questioned turned out to be a Beaumont resident who ultimately was released, but the case is pending. It remains unknown whether the 15 people arrested, ranging in age from 15 to 42, are indeed Katrina victims.

One of those charged was a 15-year-old who successfully obtained Red Cross money using a bogus license that indicated he was three years older, police said. The teen identified himself as the head of a household that included a 6- or 7-year-old child, said Lt. C. Williams of the HPD burglary and theft division. The teen's actions were discovered on a second attempt to get Red Cross money. Williams said some of the arrests are the result of HPD officers posing as volunteers, while uniformed officers also are on patrol where funds are distributed. Volunteers, Williams added, have been pointing out people who have repeatedly sought more money.

"We have people observing the process for any suspicious activity, and we will make arrests and seek prosecution," Williams said.

Gregory Smith, a Red Cross official, explained that the crackdown does not apply to those who make innocent mistakes, but it is directed at those who intentionally seek relief funds more than once.

The fraud, Smith said, has a "demoralizing" effect on volunteers and those who truly need the help. Meanwhile, he added, Red Cross officials worry the thefts will result in fewer donations to the agency.

rosanna.ruiz@chron.com



http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory...atrina/3357631

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I could have told you this was going to happen. How many more of these incidents from around the country are happening but are not being reported by the media?


This makes me very mad. If the government gave me a $2,000 debit card to help me get back up on my feet, I certainly wouldn't have misused this money!

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Old 09-18-2005, 06:27 PM   #2
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Re: Fraudulent Use of Katrina Debit cards in Houston

Quote:
Originally posted by Jamila
I could have told you this was going to happen. How many more of these incidents from around the country are happening but are not being reported by the media?

This makes me very mad. If the government gave me a $2,000 debit card to help me get back up on my feet, I certainly wouldn't have misused this money!
This is not at all surprising. In every segment of society there will be people trying to take advantage of a tragic situation. It is, unfortunately, human nature.

I am sure that this is happening throughout the country wherever large groups of evacuees were relocated and the media is probably aware of it, but may not feel that it is the story they need to focus on at this time. I think many media organizations know that they were too quick to shift their focus to the looting in New Orleans immediately after Katrina and as a result they did not recognize as quickly as they should have that there was a much larger crisis occurring there - people dying on the streets while waiting for relief. I think that right now they are correctly staying on the larger stories rather than shifting focus to the inevitable batch of scumbags trying to make a quick buck, most of whom will hopefully end up in jail.
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Old 09-18-2005, 07:12 PM   #3
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I'm not exactly shocked either. There are always people who will take advantage of this kind of thing.
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Old 09-18-2005, 07:21 PM   #4
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I'm not as shocked as I am angry - as a working poor person who has lost a job already down here to a Katrina evacuee (who got the job because the employer got a $1,500 kickback for hiring him)

and as someone who could be homeless within several months if things don't radically get better for me, I have absolutely no excuses for this.

I need a $2,000 debit card right now to help me from becoming homeless - but does the federal government care?

Shows you the hypocrisy of this entire Katrina situation.
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Old 09-18-2005, 07:29 PM   #5
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That's horrible Jamila. I hope your situation improves sooner rather than later.
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Old 09-18-2005, 08:23 PM   #6
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didn't the same thing happen on 9/11?
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Old 09-18-2005, 08:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bono'sTyee
didn't the same thing happen on 9/11?

Yup. They try it after floods, earthquakes, landslides and even 9/11. People from all walks of life, rich and poor, try to cheat the system and take things they aren't entitled to. Its sickening but not really surprising.
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Old 09-18-2005, 09:46 PM   #8
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i think they should buy ticks to the latest leg of the Vertigo Tour
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Old 09-19-2005, 02:47 AM   #9
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Iam not shocked either.Its just a dang shame because it hurts the honest people that really need the help.
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Old 09-19-2005, 06:04 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jamila
I'm not as shocked as I am angry - as a working poor person who has lost a job already down here to a Katrina evacuee (who got the job because the employer got a $1,500 kickback for hiring him)

and as someone who could be homeless within several months if things don't radically get better for me, I have absolutely no excuses for this.

I need a $2,000 debit card right now to help me from becoming homeless - but does the federal government care?

Shows you the hypocrisy of this entire Katrina situation.
I need a $200,000 debit card. And so what. You think my government gives me one.

I´m sorry you lost your job to an evacuee, but the American government handed the debit cards only to Katrina victims. Since you are not, you don´t get any. I don´t think you would prefer your home being under water just for a mere 2k. Also think 2k is only the most needed immediate help. How is the mass of evacuees going to survive in the next months? Imo it should have been $5000 (over several months).

There will always be misuse and fraud in situations like this. However, it is a moral duty to help the evacuees. Regarding your personal emotions, Jamila, if you can, try to embrace the hurricane victims instead of being angry with them for "taking" your job. As I understand, it wasn´t the top creative supermoney job anyway. Go to look for one of those, you didn´t want to stay in Starbucks the next three decades, did you?
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Old 10-02-2005, 09:25 PM   #11
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This happens in any disaster and it really burns me up. Some people just suck!
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Old 10-03-2005, 09:07 AM   #12
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SOME people really will consider to get a job instead of abusing of desperate situation!
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