Pago Pago, American Samoa -- The Lieutenant Governor's Office of the Territory of American Samoa and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today issued a reminder that federal assistance is available only to those whose homes were made unsafe by the mud slide disaster of May 19-21.
"We want to help as many people as possible, but the law requires that assistance be limited to those damaged by the disaster," Lieutenant Governor Aitofele Sunia said. "The citizens of our island are very honest and want to do the right thing, but sometimes a few individuals attempt to take advantage of the situation, and obtain assistance illegally," he added.
FEMA uses a number of methods to detect fraud. An automated system crosschecks information with other agencies and insurance companies to weed out duplicate applications. Field inspections are also conducted to verify losses and damages. Random checks and audits are also conducted.
Making false statements on an application or to a FEMA inspector will result in an investigation by the FEMA Inspector General and or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Anyone who is aware of an attempt to defraud the taxpayers is encouraged to notify the Helpline 633-3046.
"Managing a disaster program always means walking a fine line between bringing prompt service to those who need it and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not misused," FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Lokey said. "People who made a mistake when reporting damage or may have misrepresented their losses have the opportunity to amend or cancel their claim," he added.