Nearly 50 people have been indicted in connection with a scheme that bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Red Cross program to put cash into the hands of Hurricane Katrina victims, according to the Washington Post. Seventeen of the accused worked at the Red Cross claim center in Bakersfield, Calif., which handled calls from storm victims across the country and authorized cash payments to them. The others were the workers’ relatives and friends, prosecutors said last week.
The scam came to light when Red Cross officials noticed that a suspiciously high number of people were picking up Red Cross money at Western Union outlets near the Bakersfield center, even though few evacuees were in the area. The Red Cross called law enforcement authorities. Forty-nine people in the Bakersfield area have been indicted in the past three months for filing false claims with the center. More indictments are expected.