Government Waste! A Pet Pee  

AzCdKayle 62T
24 posts
6/14/2006 5:58 pm

Last Read:
6/16/2006 4:28 am

Government Waste! A Pet Pee

I don't have many pet pee's but when I heard the news this morning and what I heard really tic me off about our famous FEMA agency. What a waste of our tax payer money.

From luxury vacations to a sex change operation, much of the money meant to help victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was lost to fraud.
An audit by congressional investigators concluded that up to one-point-four billion dollars of hurricane assistance funding was spent for bogus reasons. A House committee looks at the fraud issue today.


The audit found that people lodged in hotels after the storms often were paid twice, since FEMA gave them individual rental assistance and paid hotels directly. In one case, the agency paid California hotels eight-thousand dollars to house one person, who received three rental assistance payments for both Katrina and Rita. FEMA also paid for a hotel in Hawaii too!

The findings are the latest black eye for FEMA, which took widespread criticism for its handling of the hurricanes last year.

So when I got my daily news letter at work and since I do work in the government field we get notices and reports and I got a copy of the GAO findings. Now I am not going to copy and paste everything, but some tables of their findings.

A $200 bottle of champagne from Hooters and $300 worth of "Girls Gone Wild" videos were among items bought with debit cards handed out by FEMA to help hurricane victims, auditors probing $1 billion in potential waste and fraud have found.

The cards -- given to people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- also bought diamond jewelry and a vacation in the Dominican Republic, according to the Government Accountability Office audit.

The GAO uncovered records showing that $1,000 from a FEMA debit card went to a Houston divorce lawyer; $600 was spent in a strip club and $400 was spent on "adult erotica products," all of which auditors concluded were "not necessary to satisfy legitimate disaster needs."

The GAO found that at least $1 billion in disaster relief payments by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were improper and potentially fraudulent because the recipients provided incomplete or incorrect information when they registered for assistance.

The GAO said the scope of the problem may be even larger, because it only looked at the validity of registration information and not at other forms of potential fraud.

FEMA acknowledged its shortcomings late Tuesday.
Spokesman Aaron Walker said FEMA has "revamped the registration process" and has a contract with a company that will verify immediately the identity and address of anyone for assistance.

"We are confident in the system we have in place at this point," Walker said. "We are prepared for the upcoming season."Now do you really believe this or are we just dumb, how many more times is this agency going to screw us?

The GAO also found that FEMA provided housing assistance to people who were not displaced, including at least 1,000 prison inmates, and also provided rental assistance to people who were simultaneously living in free hotel rooms.
Results of the GAO's audit will be presented Wednesday to an investigative panel of the House Homeland Security Committee. FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The GAO also found that FEMA lost track of 750 debit cards, worth a total of $1.5 million.
After inquiries from the GAO, FEMA recovered about half of that money, which had not been distributed by JPMorgan Chase, the bank hired to run the program. But the agency still cannot account for 381 cards, worth about $760,000 total, which JPMorgan Chase says it distributed, according to the GAO.

GAO investigators estimated that 16 percent of FEMA's disaster relief payments were made to people who submitted invalid registrations, to the tune of about $1 billion. Because the figures were calculated using a statistical sample, however, the agency said the amount could range from $600 million to as much as $1.4 billion.

Among other problems found with the registrations, according to the GAO study:

· People signed up for assistance using Social Security numbers that didn't exist or belonged to other people.

· Aid applications contained bogus addresses for damaged property, or gave addresses for damaged property where the applicants did not live when the hurricanes struck. In one case, FEMA paid nearly $2,360 to a man whose allegedly damaged property was in a cemetery.

· Payments were made to people who listed post office boxes as their damaged residences.

· People submitted duplicate registrations, which FEMA did not detect.

· More than 1,000 registrations used the names and Social Security numbers of prison inmates. According to the GAO, in one instance, FEMA paid $20,000 to a Louisiana prisoner who listed a post office box as his damaged property.

Table 2. Selected Payments in Statistical Sample That Failed the Primary Residence Attribute
Case Amount Case Details


1. $19,636 • Registrant received $2,000 in expedited assistance, $2,358 in rental assistance, and more than $15,000 in personal property replacement. • Registrant originally claimed damage at a street address several houses away from the damaged property address currently in FEMA’s database. At some point in the disaster assistance process, the registrant made changes to the damaged property address. • No physical inspection occurred at the damaged property. Personal property payment was based on geospatial data due to the level of devastation in the area. • GAO reviews of publicly available information and credit report data showed that the registrant had never lived at the damaged property address for which she was paid.

2. $14,750 • Registrant used valid physical property as damaged address to receive three payments for expedited assistance, rental assistance, and personal property replacement. • GAO audit and investigative work found no evidence that the individual ever lived at the property. After receiving the payments, the registrant withdrew the application without ever having a physical inspection performed or returning the disaster payments to FEMA.

3. $7,328 • Registrant used damaged property in Kenner, Louisiana, as primary residence to qualify for one expedited assistance payment and two rental assistance payments. • Registrant did not live at property at the time of disaster. • Owner of the property told us that the registrant had moved out of the damaged property a month prior to hurricane Katrina.

4. $6,161 • Registrant used damaged property as primary residence to receive one expedited assistance and two rental assistance payments. • Residents at the property had never heard of the registrant.

5. $2,784 • Registrant used Post office box in McIntosh, Alabama as the damaged property address in order to receive expedited assistance and rental assistance. • The local postal inspector stated that the post office box was linked to other individuals associated with known fraudulent activity.

Table 3: Examples of Payments Made to Improper and Potentially Fraudulent Registrations
Case Amount Case Details


1. $109,708 • 8 individuals submitted 8 registrations using their own SSNs. • All 24 payments were sent to a single apartment. • 4 individuals were members of the same household who were displaced to the same location. However, these individuals each received an expedited assistance and a rental assistance payment. According to public records, the other 4 individuals were not living at the damaged property at the time of the hurricane.

2. $139,000 • Individual received 26 payments using 13 different SSNs–only 1 of which belonged to the person. • Public records indicate that the individual did not reside at any of the 13 addresses claimed as damaged property addresses. • Public records also indicate that 8 of the 13 addresses did not exist or have public ownership records.

3. $4,358 • Registrant claimed a UPS store address as damaged property address to qualify for 2 payments for expedited assistance and rental assistance.

4. $2,358 • Registrant used an address in Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans, as the damaged property address to qualify for one rental assistance payment.

5. $2,000 • Registrant used a New Orleans cemetery as the damaged property address to obtain one expedited assistance payment.

Source: GAO analysis and investigation of FEMA data.
The following provides illustrative information for three of the cases.

• Case number 1 involves 8 individuals who claimed several different damaged property addresses, but the same current address which is a single apartment. Public record searches also determined that only 2 of the 8 individuals actually lived at the current address. Four individuals were members of the same household who shared the same damaged property address. However, the 4 individuals each received one expedited and one rental assistance payment. FEMA criteria specified that members from the same household who were displaced to the same location should be entitled to only one IHP payment. According to public records, the other 4 individuals were not living at the address claimed as damaged at the time of the hurricane.

• Case number 2 involves an individual who used 13 different SSNs–including one of the individual’s own–to receive payments on 13 registrations. The individual claimed 13 different damaged property addresses and used one single current address to receive FEMA payments. According to publicly available records, this individual had no established history at any of the 13 properties in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, which the individual claimed as damaged. The individual received approximately $139,000 consisting of 8 expedited assistance payments, 4 rental assistance payments, and 14 other payments, including 3 payments of $10,500 each, and 3 payments ranging from over $12,000 to over $17,000 for personal property replacement. Further audit and investigative work indicates that 8 of the 13 addresses did not exist or do not have public ownership records.

• Case number 4 involves a registrant who used the address of a cemetery to make an IHP claim. Specifically, the registrant used a damaged property address located within the grounds of Greenwood Cemetery, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to request disaster assistance from FEMA. Public records show no record of the registrant ever living in New Orleans. Instead, public records indicate that for the past five years, the registrant has resided in West Virginia at the address provided to FEMA as the registrant’s current address.

Table 4: FEMA Registrants Receiving Rental Assistance and FEMA Paid Hotels
Case Hotel Name (Location) Rental Assistance Payments Total Hotel Payments1 Details


1. Quality Inn (Carson, Calif.) Extended Stay America (Sacramento, Calif.) $6,734 $8,000 • Registrant stayed at two hotels from September 2005 to February 2006 at a cost of $50 to $60 per night. • FEMA paid registrant rental assistance for both Katrina and Rita in October 2005 and again in December 2005 for Katrina.

2. Motel 6 (Port Allen, La.) $5,602 $7,000 • Registrant stayed at hotels from October 2005 to February 2006 at cost of $36 to $56 per night. • While at the hotel, registrant submitted self-certification forms stating he required housing assistance as a result of both disasters. • FEMA paid registrant two rental assistance payments for Rita in November 2005 and two rental assistance payments for Katrina in December 2005 and January 2006.

3. Marriott Courtyard (Lafayette, La.) $5,208 $18,000 • Registrant stayed at hotel from September 2005 to February 2006 at a cost of $109 to $122 per night. • FEMA paid registrant two rental assistance payments in September 2005 and December 2005.

4. Marriott Cypress Harbour (Orlando, Fla.) $4,386 $12,000 • Registrant stayed at the vacation resort hotel from September to November 2005 at a cost of $154 to $249 per night. • In November 2005, the registrant moved to a FEMA-paid trailer. • FEMA made two rental assistance payments to the registrant in October 2005.

5. Days Inn (Monroe, La.) $4,386 $8,000 • Registrant stayed at hotel from October 2005 to January 2006 at a cost of $69 to $79 per night. • FEMA paid registrant two rental assistance payments in September 2005 and December 2005. • FEMA inspector notes indicate registrant did not live at the damaged address at time of the hurricane.

6. Intercontinental (New Orleans, La.) Days Inn (Metairie, La.) Best Western French Quarter Landmark (New Orleans, La.) $4,056 $14,000 • Registrant stayed at three hotels from November 2005 to February 2006 at a cost of $119 to $260 per night. • FEMA paid registrant rental assistance payments in November 2005 and January 2006.

7. Ramada Plaza Hotel (Corona, N.Y.) $2,358 $31,000 • Registrant stayed at hotel from September 2005 to March 2006 at a cost of $149 per night. • FEMA paid registrant rental assistance in September 2005.

8. Pagoda Hotel (Honolulu, Hawaii) $2,358 $8,000 • Registrant stayed at hotel from October to December 2005 at a cost of $110 to $115 per night. • FEMA paid the registrant rental assistance in November 2005 and another rental assistance payment for $2,988 in January 2006. • Our investigation and public records indicate that the registrant did not live at the damaged property address in New Orleans at the time of the hurricane but instead resided in North Carolina.

9. French Quarter Suites (New Orleans, La.) Old Towne Inn (New Orleans, La.) $2,358 $8,000 • Registrant stayed at two hotels from November 2005 to January 2006 at a cost of $100 to $136 per night. • FEMA paid registrant rental assistance in November 2005. • Registrant was evicted from second hotel for violating hotel rules.

10. Days Inn (Monroe, La.) $2,028 $8,000 • Registrant stayed at hotel from October 2005 to January 2006 at a cost of $61 to $79 per night. • FEMA paid the registrant rental assistance in December 2005.

Source: GAO analysis and investigation of FEMA and hotel data.
1Rental assistance payments were made prior to February 13 while these recipients were staying in the FEMA-paid hotels. Total hotel payments are rounded to the nearest $1,000.

Table 5: Examples of Questionable Use of Debit Cards
Vendor Location Nature of Transaction


Jewelz Arlington, Tex. Diamond jewelry including watches, earrings, and a ring $3,700

Vacation Express Atlanta, Ga. All inclusive 1 week Caribbean vacation resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic $2,200

Lesea Broadcasting South Bend, Ind. Donations to a faith based charity $2,000

New Orleans Saints New Orleans, La.
5 New Orleans Saints football season tickets $2,000

Mark Lipkin Houston, Tex. Divorce lawyer services $1,000

Legends Houston, Tex. Gentleman’s club $600

The Pleasure Zone Houston, Tex. Adult erotica products $400

Hooters San Antonio, Tex. Alcoholic beverages including $200 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne $300

GGW Video Santa Monica, Calif. Girls Gone Wild videos $300

Alamo Fireworks San Antonio, Tex. Fireworks $300



Well there you have what you and I paided for with our hard earn money wasted, yes some went to the victims, but a lot went to people who took the government for a ride, and from what I have heard about 7,000 cases have been forward to the Attorney Generals Office for charges to be brought against them.

Kayle



GhostwolfSpyGirl 48M/49F

6/14/2006 7:39 pm

wow
I had no idea the fraud was THIS bad!

thanks for the post, excellent!


LapALotta 55F

6/15/2006 8:45 pm

Dang ... those are interesting case histories. Unfortunately, there are many things the agencies could do differently to keep a better control on things, such as make out assistance vouchers for WalMart, the grocery store, etc ... but even then some would use them for cigarettes or the latest dvd player.

This all just adds to the case that FEMA and the state of LA were not prepared for this event and preparations need to be made in advance by everyone.


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