September 17, 2005
FEMA’s $400 million legacy of fraud
The Tribune Co.-owned Fort Lauderdale paper has been on FEMA’s case since last year when its computer-assisted investigation turned up massive fraud and waste in the wake of Hurricane Frances. FEMA, the paper found, had paid millions of dollars in claims in Miami-Dade County – even though the hurricane made landfall 100 miles away.
“It was absolutely incredible. In Miami, the hurricane never hit, it never came on shore, and we found FEMA paid out $31 million for a storm that never came ashore,” Mauker said.
The Sun-Sentinel followed up that revelation with continuing reporting of FEMA waste. The paper says the agency paid for funerals for people whose deaths had nothing to do with the hurricane. It reports that FEMA inspectors receive little training – and that a shocking number of them have criminal records.
With this coming investigative series – titled, “FEMA: A Legacy Of Waste – the newspaper expands its examination far beyond Florida.
… “We found the same waste in Detroit, Baton Rouge, Cleveland, Los Angeles,” Mauker said. One example: After a season of wild fires and mudslides in Los Angeles, FEMA paid $5.2 million in disaster relief to families in Watts, far from the affected areas.
“There is a huge pattern of low-income urban neighborhoods, when they find out there is a FEMA-declared emergency, they file,” sometimes faking damage to collect, Mauker said.
The series estimates that between 1999 and 2004, FEMA squandered $400 million in money spent “for storms that never occurred or for issues that were miles away from” a disaster site, Mauker said.
More from the Sun-Sentinel tomorrow.
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