Red Cross Probes Fraud Allegations

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The American Red Cross has started an investigation into allegations of fraud and abuse and other possible wrongdoing by volunteers after Hurricane Katrina.

Some of the accusations include failing to follow proper procedures, improperly diverting supplies, and the use of felons as volunteers in a disaster area.

"The American Red Cross is aggressively investigating allegations brought to us by concerned volunteers," said Cheri Barry, executive director of the American Red Cross-Key Chapter in Meridian.

There were over 1,000 volunteers for the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross. Nationally, the number of volunteers jumps to 240,000.

Usually, the American Red Cross runs a background check on volunteers, but with such a large number, it is possible that a few fell through the cracks during the scramble to supply the Gulf Coast with aid.

"Along with volunteers comes misuse of funds, not having proper knowledge of policies and procedures and codes of conduct," Barry said.

Barry said she is confident that there was no wrongdoing by her volunteers. Regardless, they will be part of the national audit being conducted.

"I am very comfortable having the auditors coming in and looking at our big picture and knowing that the interests of Lauderdale County and our six other counties are at heart," Barry said. "And that the money and in-kind donations we spent very appropriately."

The Key Chapter spent close to $8 million meeting the emergency needs of people in the area. Barry said they too are investigating all possible cases of fraud committed against the Red Cross in their seven county area.

If you suspect someone of committing fraud against the Red Cross you may call (601) 485-5151 to report it.