BEAUMONT, October 20, 2017 - Acting United States Attorney Brit Featherston announced today that a Disaster Fraud Task Force has been created in the Eastern District of Texas comprised of local, state, and federal agencies to combat hurricane Harvey related disaster fraud activity.
The Justice Department established the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) following Hurricane Katrina and it is specifically designed to be ready for situations like Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria. The Center acts as a clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud and has already received over 400 complaints of suspected fraudulent activity since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck the Gulf Coast in August and September.
Although the Eastern District of Texas has witnessed acts of heroism, compassion and generosity from its citizens and from across the nation, there are individuals and organizations that will use these tragic events to take advantage of those in need. Examples of illegal activity reported to the NCDF and law enforcement include:
· Impersonation of federal law enforcement officials;
· Identity theft;
· Fraudulent submission of claims to insurance companies and the federal government;
· Fraudulent activity related to solicitations for donations and charitable giving;
· Fraudulent activity related to individuals and organizations promising high investment returns from profits from recovery and cleanup efforts;
· Price gouging;
· Theft, looting, and other violent crime.
"Relief funds provide critical support and assistance for those whose lives were profoundly affected by Hurricane Harvey, and our citizens have the right to expect that those funds will be used to the greatest advantage,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston. “Anyone who illegally diverts those funds, or fraudulently profits from this disaster, should face a storm of their own creation and this task force exists to ensure that happens."
Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail). Learn more about the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at http://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.
The Disaster Fraud Task Force for the Eastern District of Texas is comprised of the following agencies: the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas; Homeland Security Investigations; Environmental Protection Agency-OIG; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Health & Human Services;-OIG; U.S. Internal Revenue Service-CID; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development-OIG; U.S. Small Business Administration-OIG; Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office; Orange County District Attorney’s Office; Beaumont Police Department; Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office; Orange County Sheriff’s Office; Orange Police Department; Hardin County Sheriff’s Office; Port Arthur Police Department; and the Social Security Administration-OIG.