In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many people sought refuge in various part of Georgia. The hurricane destroyed many homes and neighborhoods. Having to relocate, even temporarily, proved to be an expensive undertaking and especially difficult for those who were already struggling financially before the storm.
While the response to the storm by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been criticized by many, FEMA did provide relocation assistance to some that were displaced. But now, authorities are apparently on the lookout for individuals they feel may have committed fraud in their receipt of these assistance funds.
One man, who had move to Georgia from New Orleans, was recently sentenced to more than two years in prison and was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution for assistance he received from FEMA. The man had filed an application for FEMA assistance, but authorities contend that the application was fraudulent because the man moved from New Orleans before the hurricane struck.
It is not clear from news reports on this story exactly how long before the hurricane struck that the man moved to Georgia.
Federal fraud charges are often characterized as “white collar crimes.” This sometimes conjures up images of million-dollar accounting schemes and private jets. It is likely that is what policymakers had in mind when implementing the harsh sentences that federal fraud charges can carry. But in many cases, the suspects are a far cry from these stereotypes and are instead just people who are down on their luck and out of options.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Man gets prison for FEMA fraud after Hurricane Katrina,” Angel Brooks, Feb. 2, 2012