This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The FBI has been working overtime ever since, trying to get a handle not only on the misuse and abuse of funds provided by FEMA, but also fraud
stemming from phony charities.
It's really, really sad, but whenever there's a disaster, the scammers come out of the woodwork. The more chaos and misery, the better it is for
It's by no means an American problem, we saw the exact same thing happening in Sumatra after the big quake not too long ago. One of the programs
implemented was free boats for fishermen disenfranchised by the tsunami. Sure enough, most fishermen got no free boat, and a very few got dozens.
People are oppurtunists, and are nothing if not predictable.
That's actually a very good thing, from the perspective of the state. If we utilize the knowledge available to us, and take steps to sting the
scammers immediately in the wake of these events, the authorities can have a head start.
Usually relief efforts are the first thing on everyone's mind, and that's fine. But effective
relief is what's needed, and in order for
that to happen, authorities have to prepare to deal with the frauds and the cons. They can definitely take a more pro-active role in heading these
criminals off at the pass, so to speak.
Of course the media will have a field day if the FBI conducts sting operations in the midst of a tragedy, but that's not a good enough reason to hold
off taking action. The FBI's job isn't to be well liked, it's to be effective. To be most effective, they have to focus on their end of the
relief efforts from day one.
The biggest problem that I see is maintaining the balancing act, between speedy relief and effective relief (with sufficient oversight to prevent
widespread abuse). It's a challenge, no doubt about it, but it can't be ignored.
For the most part, in recent disasters, relief has been neither speedy nor effective - so what do we have to lose? I really think the overall quality
and quantity of aid would be drastically improved if the FBI jumped in along with the first shipments of bottled water and MREs.
Anyway, here's a couple of links to threads dealing with fraud in the wake of Katrina, for those interested.