Legal Thriller Author Reveals Easy Ways to Spot Natural Disaster Rip-Offs

Amateur con artists of all stripes find that conning the government is the easiest scam of all Finagle’s Law of Bureaucracy: The first myth of management efficiency is that it exists, Investment platform worked well for the exploiters of Hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, rank amateur con artists had a field day, not even needing the benefits of any particular rip-off training. Collectively they ripped about everything ripable from FEMA’s pockets, including the lining. Here is just a sampling of the “enrichment activities” which took place at taxpayer expense as reported by a Senate Investigating Committee:

> An unbelievable 33% of the 2.5 million total applications for all forms of individual assistance were duplicates. That’s right, nearly 1 million cases of fraud. Extraordinary.

> Government auditors, using bogus identities, false addresses, and creative disaster stories–for practice–were able to obtain their own $2,000 checks. No questions asked.

> Of 200 home addresses listed as hurricane damaged, 80–a staggering 40%–turned out to be nonexistent apartments or vacant lots.

> Twenty people used 35 bogus social security numbers to rake in more than $100,000 in payment-loot.

> Almost half of 11,000 people who were issued special debit cards good for $2,000 each as survival funds, got a second $2,000 windfall.

> More than half of a group of 250 collected using phantom social security numbers–numbers which had never been issued.

> Use of the social security numbers of dead people proliferated.

> Many cases were found of the special electronic debit cards being used to pay for jewelry, bail bond services, a .45-caliber handgun, and “adult entertainment” of some form or another. This part of the story reads more like fiction, like from a legal thriller.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rsmelati almost simultaneously with residents streaming out of New Orleans, a wave of illegal immigrants streamed in. Many of the clean-up jobs were taken by these people, no doubt extending the massive fraud, due to the known, high quantity of fake social security number use in their ranks.

End in sight? Who knows? After a 2-year struggle, the Homeland Security Dept. is still trying to get a handle on it. Being a cumbersome, lumbering government agency, one should not hold one’s breath in wild-eyed anticipation Con artists are not the only ones who know that dealing with the government is like kicking a 300-pound sponge.

Oddity is, some 80 years before–in 1925–New Orleans was devastated by an almost identical hurricane-disaster. Not a penny came out of the Federal Treasury to bail the city out of that one. Nonetheless, somehow, the city got rebuilt. Obviously, with no federal bailout, no funds were available for fraud. So, the outcome was entirely different on that score too. How times have changed!

A generally accepted sage-wisdom of life is: You don’t want to be so intelligent that nobody can relate to you. Consequently, professionals in every field generally regard talented amateurs with respect. The top executives of NBA basketball were duly impressed with the court prowess of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James while they were still in high school. Corporations vigorously recruit computer nerds, engineers, scientists, pocketlegals and honor graduates of all stripes on college campuses yearly. Even the federal and state governments are constantly seeking talented amateurs from among the masses, to employ and train.

Not so in the con artists’ profession. Here the sociopath professional regards the amateur with disdain, convinced he is incapable of developing any kind of workable shell game. He feels, in this field of endeavor, the amateur, not having the I.Q. of a postage stamp, would be the type who would hold up a bank with thumb and forefinger for a gun, forgetting to keep the hand in a pocket. It is therefore appalling to the professional con artist to see this army of not-ready-for-prime-time players charge forward in Louisiana with forbixindia such stunning success.


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