Monday, October 30, 2006


FBI claims jurisdiction over any Road Home fraud


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Fraudulent contractors, unlicensed contractors and the bilking of homeowners are reaching epidemic proportions, prompting federal and state agencies to beef up regulatory and criminal enforcement against unscrupulous businesses.

"The FBI and the U.S. attorney are fundamentally committed to ensure (the use of) recovery (money) is free of fraud, and we are cooperating to include contractors who engage in fraudulent activity," said James Bernazzani, FBI special agent in charge of Louisiana.

Bernazzani said the disbursement of Road Home loans gives the FBI jurisdiction, and any contractor stealing or fraudulently taking the money will be high on the FBI's radar.

"If you are a contractor fraudulently (taking) recovery money from homeowners, the FBI will take a very, very hard look at it," he said.

As Road Home money through the Louisiana Recovery Authority begins to be disbursed, the FBI and the Louisiana attorney general's office doubt complaints against contractors have approached the peak.

"I think eventually our active complaints will exceed 1,000 any given month," said Charles Marceaux, executive director of the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.

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