Dozens indicted in Katrina scheme

first_img Officials with Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Spherion, which operates the call center, have said the company didn’t have time to run background checks on its 1,200 workers. None of the suspects worked directly for the Red Cross. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake The Bakersfield site is the largest of three Red Cross centers set up to handle hurricane calls. Others are located in Niagra Falls, N.Y., and Falls Church, Va. Operators provided qualifying victims with a personal identification number they then presented to receive aid funds from Western Union. The average payout was about $1,000, Goldburg said. The indicted call center employees were allegedly providing pin numbers to their friends and family who would then go to Western Union to collect the funds, Scott said after the first eight indictments were announced in October. The Red Cross contacted the FBI after it performed an audit of the call center and discovered an unusually high number of claims were being paid out at Western Union outlets in the Bakersfield area. “This is one of the biggest schemes that we’ve seen,” Goldburg said. FRESNO – Forty-nine people have been indicted in a scheme that bilked thousands of dollars from a Red Cross fund designated for Hurricane Katrina victims, federal authorities said Tuesday. At least 14 suspects worked at a Red Cross call center in Bakersfield and are accused of helping family and friends file false claims for aid money, said Mary Wenger, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott in Sacramento. All the suspects are from the Bakersfield area and face federal wire fraud charges, she said. Six have pleaded guilty. The fake claims drained at least $200,000 from the fund, but that number is expected to rise as the investigation continues, Red Cross spokeswoman Devorah Goldburg said Tuesday. last_img read more

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