FBI Targets Fraud

Ebony Hawkins, 23, of Meridian has been arrested and charged with filing a false claim for hurricane relief from FEMA.

She is being held in Meridian until U.S. marshals can transport her.

She is the third Meridian resident charged with fraud regarding hurricane relief claims.

Meanwhile, the FBI made a series of arrests this week in a scam to steal money intended for Hurricane Katrina victims.

"Every now and again you encounter a case that sort of shocks you, in terms of the moral vacuum that exists among those who are perpetrating crimes, and this is clearly one of those," said McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of California.

In this case it was an inside job, involving a company hired by the Red Cross. Employees were to help hurricane victims get relief money from Western Union accounts.

Instead, the FBI says, employees stole the victims' PIN numbers and withdrew wads of cash, as much as $1,600 at a time. In just four days, they allegedly stole $25,000.

In other cases, criminals are posed as evacuees to steal $2,000 relief checks from FEMA.

A website, Air Katrina, appealed for donations, claiming to represent a charity which was airlifting emergency supplies and flying sick children to hospitals. None of that was true.

Tom Daniels contributed to this report.


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