St. Petersburg storm victim is now victim of fraud

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A month after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Florida peninsula, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has so far poured more than $737 million into the state for storm related relief.

Christopher Hendley, of St. Petersburg, tried applying for assistance on disaster.gov.

“I filled out the information, my name, my address, my social security number and then I hit ‘next,’ and then it tells me, ‘duplicate information on file.’ It says that I already have an application on file,” said Hendley.

It turns out FEMA already handed out $1,400 to someone who used Hendley’s name, address and Social Security number to file a claim.

“Well, I never filled out an application before that day,” stated Hendley.

According to Keith St. Clair of FEMA, the agency’s Office of Inspector General investigates fraud.

“Criminals are creative, it’s what they do for a living, so they’re good at what they do,” explained St. Clair.

Locked out of FEMA’s computer, Hendley called.

“It took me about three hours of phone waiting time to have two, five minute conversations,” he said.

He was instructed to contact the FEMA and Homeland Security Fraud hotlines.

“Both mailboxes are full, so I wasn’t able to leave a message until Saturday night, September 30th on the FEMA fraud hotline and no one has contacted me since,” he explained.

While FEMA’s Office of Inspector General hunts down the bad guys, legitimate victims are forced to wait for relief.

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