Fraud Investigations In Jackson County - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/24/04

Fraud Investigations In Jackson County

Sonya Williams is the landlord at Williamsburg Square Apartments in Pascagoula.

Williams says Hurricane Ivan sure left his mark there.

Ivan knocked over some fences, tore shingles off some parts of the roof, and pushed water into a few apartments. Williams has it all on camera.

"It shows what the damage was and if it's more than what the picture says, then it's obvious something else happened," Williams says.

Williams was taking pictures for her insurance company, but those pictures could end up part of a fraud investigation.

The Red Cross confirms one claim from Williamsburg Square is under investigation for possible fraud, but it's not the only claim that's raised a red flag with the Red Cross and District Attorney Tony Lawrence.

"The minimum is probably material misrepresentation about things like number of kids, number of dependents. They get more aid when they really didn't have those dependents. But it's gone to the extent where people have intentionally damaged their own property to get aid," Lawrence says. 

Southeast Mississippi Red Cross Director Paige Roberts says of the thousands of claims they've had, only 210 will receive assistance.  Out of those, only a handful are suspicious, and anyone trying to make a false claim will be caught.

"If we don't catch you at point A, we'll get you at point B. If we don't catch you at point C, we'll get you sometime. We're going to find out at some point. We really encourage people not to bother. There will be serious consequences," Roberts says. 

Consequence that could mean jail time, because the Red Cross wants people to trust that their donations are going to those in need.

by Jaimee Goad

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