Saturday, January 28, 2006

Culture of Corruption: FEMA Workers Accused of Bribery


Two FEMA disaster assistance employees working in New Orleans were arrested yesterday on federal bribery charges, accused of accepting $10,000 each in exchange for letting a contractor submit inflated reports on the number of meals it was serving at a Hurricane Katrina relief base camp there.

The charges against Andrew Rose and Loyd Hollman, both of Colorado, came after they told a contractor hired on a $1 million deal to provide meals in Algiers, La., that he could submit falsified invoices for extra meals, a Justice Department statement said.

The two were arrested hours after accepting envelopes containing $10,000 apiece. These were supposed to be down payments in what the two had said should be a $2,500 weekly bribe for each, officials said.

"No one - whether citizen or public official - will be permitted to illegally profit at the expense of the communities and citizens who so desperately need FEMA funds and assistance in the wake of this region's terrible disaster," said Jim Letten, the United States attorney.

Since the storm, dozens of would-be Hurricane Katrina victims who inappropriately applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been arrested on charges of making fraudulent claims. A group of contract workers at the American Red Cross in Bakersfield, Calif., were arrested late last year, accused of creating fictitious victims and then cashing benefits the group provided.

A FEMA spokeswoman, Natalie Rule, said yesterday that the two were hired in September for its so-called disaster reservists team.

"We want to see anyone guilty of fraud prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," she said.

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