BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Ellison C. Travis are urging suspected Hurricane Ida fraud victims to file complaints with the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF). Their plea comes on the heels of multiple reports of suspected contractor, FEMA and SBA fraud related to Hurricane Ida.
The NCDF was established by the U.S. Department of Justice after Hurricane Katrina. It is a nationwide organization of law enforcement agents that further detects, investigates and prosecutes those responsible for disaster-related fraud. The NCDF Hotline receives complaints and refers them to the appropriate federal, state or local agency for investigation.
“Our office and the NCDF share a common aim to aggressively investigate, apprehend and prosecute those who exploit calamity for personal reward,” Landry said. “We stand united with our law enforcement partners to ensure victims of Hurricane Ida receive the help they need and do not fall prey to another tragedy.”
“My office has no tolerance for criminals who target disaster victims. Working with Attorney General Landry and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, we can protect victims of Ida from criminals who, out of wanton greed, exploit this tragedy for their own gain,” Travis said. “Potential fraudsters must know that, under federal law, there is a 30-year maximum sentence in federal prison for those who commit fraud related to disasters. My office will continue to act aggressively to bring to justice those who would further harm victims of Hurricane Ida and other disasters."
Landry and Travis said the public’s assistance in combating disaster fraud is essential to preventing crime and, when fraud has been committed, helping law enforcement prosecute the criminals. “Be alert; if you see suspicious activity or abuse, report it to the NCDF,” Travis added.
Officials with the two offices said that, after a storm, fraudulent contractors will target those affected by offering to perform their repairs quickly, while at the same time demanding payment before any work is performed. People can avoid becoming a victim, they said, by never paying a contractor for work that has not been completed, hiring well-known local contractors with a reputation for performing good work, asking an insurance claim adjuster to review a contract before signing, asking for proof of liability insurance and state licensure and never paying with cash, since that leaves no trail if an investigation becomes necessary.
Landry and Travis said they want Louisiana residents to know that if they were visited by a FEMA inspector or received a letter from FEMA or the SBA stating they have filed a claim for disaster assistance when the person approached has not, he or she may be a victim of FEMA fraud. If this applies to you, it is important for you to contact FEMA directly at 800-621-3362 to let them know the application is fraudulent, they said.
If you have been the victim of any type of disaster fraud, then immediately file a complaint with the NCDF via phone at 866-720-5721 or online at www.justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm.
More consumer tips for natural disaster victims may be found at http://agjefflandry.com/Files/Shared/Documents/ConsumerTipsforNaturalDisasters.pdf.