Albany, N.Y.: Timesunion.com - Print Story: "Report alleges FEMA fraud
Newspaper investigation reveals millions of dollars in aid given to areas with little or no damage
By SALLY KESTIN, MEGAN O'MATZ, JOHN MAINES and JON BURSTEIN, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
First published: Sunday, September 18, 2005
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The federal government's mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe is only the latest bungling in a national disaster response system that for years has been fraught with waste and fraud.
A South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation has found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency in five years poured at least $330 million into communities that were spared the devastating effects of fires, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.
In the country's poorest, inner city neighborhoods, disaster assistance is considered an entitlement. Taxpayer money meant to help victims recover from catastrophes instead has gone to thousands of people who suffered little or no damage, including:
$5.2 million to Los Angeles-area residents for the 2003 wildfires that burned more than 25 miles away.
$168.5 million to Detroit residents for a 2000 rainstorm that the then-mayor doesn't even remember.
$21.6 million in clothing losses alone to Cleveland residents for a 2003 storm that brought less than an inch-and-a-half of rain.
The Sun-Sentinel first exposed fraud and waste in federal disaster aid in Florida last year, when FEMA distributed $31 million in Hurricane Frances relief to Miami-Dade County residents who experienced no hurricane conditions.
The newspaper examined 20 of the 313 disasters declared by FEMA from 1999 through 2004, selecting cities where the agency's inspectors said they had encountered large-scale fraud. Of the $1.2 billion FEMA paid in those disasters, 27 percent went to areas where official reports showed only minor damage or none at all, the Sun-Sentinel found.
'It's so disturbing'"
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