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Amnesty For Katrina Thieves – All Is Forgiven

A kindly heads-up for Andrea and her pals, from the DNC’s AP:

Red Cross offers amnesty for wrongly obtained benefits

10:43 AM CST on Monday, November 7, 2005

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — American Red Cross officials are offering amnesty to police officers and others who wrongly obtained disaster benefits — if they return the money.

But investigators say the promise is not the Red Cross’ to make.

On Sunday, Victor Howell, executive director of the Red Cross Baton Rouge chapter, said he is "encouraging people to turn in debit cards if they feel they don’t deserve them. We would accept those back."

Howell said the group likely would not prosecute.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, the Baton Rouge local of the Union of Police sent an e-mail encouraging its members and their families to apply for Red Cross benefits regardless of whether a loss was sustained. The e-mail also described the Red Cross debit card as a "gift card" that was a special union benefit.

Authorities have not said how many law officers they believe applied for the benefits. Last week, two East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies resigned over applications they filed, according to the sheriff’s office.

U.S. Attorney David Dugas has refused to say whether a national task force targeting post-storm fraud is investigating. But he said there is no automatic immunity from prosecution for those who return money in any federal fraud case.

"The decision to prosecute is the government’s, not the victim’s," Dugas said. "While the victim’s desires and cooperation can be taken into account by the prosecutor, ultimately the prosecutor makes that decision."

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has mandated a zero-tolerance policy for fraud related to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"Therefore, the position of this office is that all fraud cases will be prosecuted," Dugas said. "The fact that someone who has obtained money fraudulently decides to voluntarily return the money is a factor we’ll take into account in deciding how and what to charge, but it does not mean they won’t be prosecuted."

Sheriff’s Col. Greg Phares said he would not recommend amnesty for fraudulent recipients simply because they gave the money back.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, November 7th, 2005. Comments are currently closed.

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