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GAO Identifies Fraud, Waste of US Hurricane Assistance


U.S. congressional investigators are probing possible fraud or waste in the allocation of as much as $1.4 billion in assistance for victims of last year's Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Investigators with the General Accountability Office say they found cases of individuals using a cemetery or post office box as the address for their damaged property.

They also say claimants used bogus or multiple identifications to obtain the assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Investigators say they found cases where the government assistance went to pay for football tickets, a vacation to the Dominican Republic, alcohol, strippers or adult entertainment products.

The investigators also say they discovered cases of individuals receiving double payment for housing, by receiving both hotel and rental assistance.

FEMA says it has identified $16.8 million in funds that were inappropriately awarded for last year's hurricane season, and has started efforts to reclaim that money.

The GAO presented its findings to a Congressional committee Wednesday. It said it is "95 percent confident" that the amount of improper or potentially fraudulent payments is from $600 million to $1.4 billion.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.

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