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Posted by on Jun 14, 2006 in At TMV | 5 comments

FEMA Funds Debit Card Used For Divorce And Sex Change

It now turns out that those highly touted (and shortly lived) FEMA debit cards were used by some people who had them…just like regular debit cards. Your tax dollars at work:

Houston divorce lawyer Mark Lipkin says he can’t recall anyone paying for his services with a FEMA debit card, but congressional investigators say one of his clients did just that.

The $1,000 payment was just one example cited in an audit that concluded that up to $1.4 billion – perhaps as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in assistance expended after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – was spent for bogus reasons.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also was hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and a sex change operation, the audit found. Prison inmates, a supposed victim who used a New Orleans cemetery for a home address and a person who spent 70 days at a Hawaiian hotel all were able to get taxpayer help, according to evidence that gives a new black eye to the nation’s disaster relief agency.

“I do Katrina victims all the time,” Lipkin, the divorce attorney, told The Associated Press. “I didn’t know anybody did that with me. I don’t think it’s right, obviously.”

Still, in a news story like this you don’t usually find out the total number of cards that went out. The total number of people who used it responsibly. And the total number and percentage of those who used it for purposes for which it wasn’t issued. Even so, laws — and scandals — focus on those who don’t do things the proper way. Outrage in Congress (which of course always walks the straight and narrow in all financial and ethical matters) is great:

Government Accountability Office officials were testifying before a House committee Wednesday on their findings.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee overseeing an investigation of post-hurricane aid, called the bogus spending “an assault on the American taxpayer.”

The AP goes on to say that FEMA as recorded 1,500 cases of potential fraud and “has identified $16.8 million in improperly awarded disaster relief money and has started efforts to collect the money.’ But the GAO thinks between $600 million and $1.4 million was given out improperly.

Other outrages include being reimbursed for the same hotel room twice, $100 hotel rooms in Hawaii, a Carribean vacation, champagne, sdult erotica products in Houston and “Girls Gone Wild” videos in Santa Monica, Calif. And a whole lot more.

Hey, plastic is plastic…

UPDATE: Be sure to read Polimom, Too’s take on this.

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