Disaster Fraud Schemes Defined by a NY Defense Lawyer
After a disaster like a hurricane or a tornado, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aims to help citizens and first responders through providing financial relief and disaster aid. FEMA indicates that a part of the agency’s job is to make sure that “taxpayer dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses.” As a result,
those who make fraudulent claims or who participate in disaster fraud schemes can face felony charges.
FEMA has a hotline to encourage reports of suspected fraud, and whistleblowers who file qui tam lawsuits to bring to light fraud on the government can benefit from personally receiving a portion of funds recovered. This creates strong incentives for individuals to report suspected disaster fraud scams.
If you are accused of involvement in such a scam, you could be prosecuted on the federal or state level, which could lead to imprisonment and required restitution. It is imperative you contact an attorney as soon as you are under investigation, indicted, or arrested so your lawyer can help you to begin exploring defenses. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC has helped many clients accused of involvement in disaster fraud schemes and we can put our legal knowledge of these complex insurance fraud cases to work on your behalf.
What are Disaster Fraud Schemes?
Disaster fraud schemes often involve attempts to improperly obtain funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that are provided as part of disaster relief efforts.
However, there are also other types of insurance fraud schemes after disasters, including scams involving people who take advantage of homeowners whose property was destroyed; policyholders who make false claims; and people who start fake charity drives.
Any attempt to enrich yourself through false statements, misleading statements, material omissions, or misrepresentations in connection with a disaster can be considered a type of disaster fraud scam. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC represents not only individuals accused of fraud against FEMA, but also those who are charged with being part of any scheme or conspiracy to commit any type of fraud crime following a natural or man-made disaster.
Types of Disaster Fraud Schemes
There are multiple types of disaster fraud schemes including the following scam types:
- Donations are solicited for a fraudulent charity, allegedly to support the disaster victims but instead to divert the money given to enrich those who organized the scam. These scams could include pretending to be collecting for a legitimate charity (i.e. posing as a representative of the Red Cross) or creation of a charity that does not exist.
- “Contractors” who defraud homeowners by collecting money up front to make disaster repairs with no intention of providing the labor.
- Policyholders making fraudulent claims with their property insurance providers by claiming damages that didn’t occur, inflating losses, faking repairs, or getting contractors to write up estimates for more than the actual value of repairs.
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- Price gouging, which occurs when businesses respond to an increased demand for a given service with hugely inflated prices after a disaster occurs.
- Disaster fraud, which includes policyholders making false claims for disaster relief funds provided by FEMA. Some legitimate claimants inflate the value of their losses, while in other cases people who reside far out of the disaster area make claims for compensation from FEMA.
- Flood damage (which is excluded from most standard insurance policies) being intentionally misrepresented as losses due to theft, fire or wind damage.
As part of any of these fraud schemes, forgery and related offenses may occur. For example, someone could forge a FEMA check and cash it, or submit fraudulent receipts or fake building permits to insurance companies.
Penalties for Disaster Fraud
Penalties for disaster fraud vary depending upon the type of offense that occurs. Larceny, mail fraud, wire fraud, insurance fraud, bank fraud, forgery offenses, and identity theft are among the state and federal offenses that you could be charged with when accused of disaster fraud. In New York, for example, participation in any scheme to defraud can be considered a felony or a misdemeanor under NY Penal Code Section 190.60 and 190.65.
When the fraud occurs in connection with a disaster, penalties are typically more stringent than in ordinary cases of fraud. For example, 18 U.S. Code Section 1341 imposes a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine for frauds and swindles “paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency.” Under ordinary circumstances, violation of this same law results in a maximum period of 20 years imprisonment. The mere fact that the fraud happened in connection with a disaster could add 10 years onto a prison sentence.
A NY Lawyer Can Help After Accusations of Disaster Fraud
You need to take accusations of disaster fraud very seriously. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC can provide you with legal help and advice in negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors or in defending against charges. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the legal services our experienced defense lawyers provide in connection with all types of insurance fraud crimes.Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT.