San Juan, PR -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are working to identify disaster applicants who try to cash in as victims of the May 6 - 11 floods and mudslides. President George Bush declared the western region of the island a major disaster on May 16, opening the way for the use of federal funds and resources to help meet the recovery needs of people and communities victimized by the floods.
"Managing a multi-million dollar disaster program always means walking a fine line between speedy service to those who need it and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not misused," said Justo Hernández, federal coordinating officer.
According to Hernández, Special Agents from FEMA's Office of Inspector General, working closely with disaster assistance personnel, employ a number of methods to detect fraud. Investigations are being conducted and those identified as having defrauded FEMA are prosecuted by both federal and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico courts.
Other types of applicant fraud include:
- People who claim residences that are not their primary residence.
- Applicants who leave out their spouse's information when registering.
- Self-inflicted damages.
- Spouses claiming different addresses.
- People that fail to disclose insurance coverage.
If you know of someone who is filing false damage claims, you may report this or other instances of fraud to the FEMA-OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-800-794-6690. Your identity can be protected and you may remain anonymous.
People who have made a mistake when reporting damage have the opportunity to cancel their claim. Individuals may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-525-0321 (TTY: 1-800-462-7585) to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution.