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Amid Newtown tragedy, scam artists creep in


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When the government doled out disaster aid after Hurricane Katrina, scammers asked for money to rebuild houses they never lived in or to pay benefits for relatives who never existed.

At a glance

A colorful picture of fraud

The government set up the National Center for Disaster Fraud to try to root out scams in the federal relief programs administered after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. It has since expanded its mandate to other disasters.

Cases brought by the Justice Department:

A woman who filed for small-business disaster benefits after the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill, even though she’d sold the business before the accident.

A judge and a commissioner in Texas who, after Hurricane Ike, were accused of awarding debris removal contracts to a company in return for kickbacks. The judge also commandeered a 155-kilowatt generator meant for the county to power his convenience store, according to the government.

A pastor who submitted inflated claims to a government-funded program that reimbursed groups sheltering Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Bob Webster, spokesman for the NASAA, knows the sad pattern.

“We know cons try to cash in on headlines, and any who would even think about stooping to capitalize on the tragedy in Newtown are the lowest of the low,” he said.

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