Judy Alderman, 56, walks through her house Thursday, April 28, 2011 following a tornado in Glade Spring, Va. Alderman hid under a set of stairs with her husband to ride out the storm. Several homes and trucks stops along I-81 were severely damaged near I-81. Five deaths have been reported. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The U.S. Attorney's Office is warning residents and businesses in the area about fraud related to tornado and storm relief efforts in East Tennessee. The warning comes following FEMA's declaration that ten counties were eligible for federal relief funds.
“Federal disaster relief funds are to be used to help persons who have suffered harm and loss. We will aggressively prosecute anyone who tries to victimize these individuals a second time or attempts to defraud our taxpayers,” said Mr. Killian. “Criminals who try to prey on those who have suffered losses and those that try to illegally profit from this tragedy should know that we will bring every available federal charge against them to address this conduct and to protect our citizens.”
According to Killian's Office, there are a number of federal statutes that could be implicated by disaster relief fraud, including false claims against the government; theft of government property; credit card, bank, mail, and wire fraud; false statements, social security fraud, identity theft, and fraud against the American Red Cross.
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.