SAN JUAN, P.R. ?- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently identifying disaster applicants who have tried to profit from the November 10-23, 2003 rains, floods and mudslides. President George Bush declared on November 21, 2003 twenty-one municipalities as major disaster areas, making available federal funds and resources to help meet the recovery needs of affected people and communities.
"Since the delivery of disaster aid has been quite expeditious, there is always a fine line between the speedy service to those who need it and the assurance that the funds are not misused," said Justo Hernández, federal coordinating officer.
Special Agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security'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 in both federal and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico courts.
There are many types of applicant fraud, including:
- 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.
Residents that know of someone who is filing false damages claims, should report this or other instances of fraud to the FEMA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603 . The resident's identity will be protected and may remain anonymous.
People who have made a mistake when reporting damages have the opportunity to cancel their claim. Individuals may call the FEMA toll-free number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 1-800-462-7585, for h earing and speech impaired individuals ) to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.