Texas – 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:
of federal law enforcement officials;
submission of claims to insurance companies and the federal government;
activity related to solicitations for donations and charitable giving;
activity related to individuals and organizations promising high investment
returns from profits from recovery and cleanup efforts;
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.
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.