Federal Authorities Report Over 160 Guilty Pleas in Katrina Fraud Prosecutions
by Keith Burton
Federal authorities say they are continuing to sort out fraud cases associated with Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance programs and the number of successful prosecutions in Mississippi shows that the government is very serious about Katrina fraud.
GCN requested the U.S. Attorney's Office in Jackson to provide the number of Katrina fraud cases to date in Mississippi where the subjects pleaded guilty. GCN received the following response from Mississippi U.S. Attorney spokeswoman Sheila Wilbanks via email:
"It’s kind of hard to come up with numbers such as you have requested but I asked our systems manager to run a computer generated report of all Katrina cases where the disposition in the case was listed as “guilty pleas. According to this printout, the number of cases is 161. I would say this is probably not an exact number but an approximate. Also note that this was run by case number and not defendant. So if five defendants in one case pled guilty it would count as one on this list."
This number of guilty pleas does not include cases that are under investigation or are in court where the outcomes have yet to be determined. The numbers, however, include pleas for all sorts of Katrina fraud stemming from individuals who defrauded the government in the various assistance programs established after Katrina.
In a related matter, the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) reports that in the Homeowner Assistance Programs (HAP), an audit found some 300 suspicious cases and of that number 58 cases of fraud. While this number is significant, it represents less than one percent of the HAP programs administered by the MDA.