"There's no telling how much money has been fraudulently given out to people with intent of helping those in need."
Cheri Barry with the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross is talking about funds that were dispersed to people under false pretenses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"It is thousands and thousands of dollars," says Barry. "We have one claim that was over $14,000 for one family."
Barry says many people who fraudulently received the money went to several different Red Cross offices and/or used fake addresses while exaggerating about the number of people staying in the household. With it estimated that the local Red Cross office was defrauded of well over $100,000, agency officials say they've had to hire extra help.
"We have hired someone temporarily to come in and help us with the fraudulent issues and hopefully they'll be working with us for the next four months in an effort to bring those people to just that have taken fraudulent funds from the Red Cross," says Barry.
The Key Chapter Red Cross is now working with the FBI to address the matter. Anyone found guilty of this fraud could face up to three years in jail, a $10,000 fine and repayment of the cash taken.
"So, if you have information about fraudulent funds or you have received to the appropriate people please come and talk to me because I would like to sit down with you and see if we can get some things worked out," says Barry.
The phone number for the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross is (601) 485-5151.