The County received about $28.1 million in Public Assistance grant awards from Florida — a FEMA grantee — for damages from severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding in April and May 2014. Jackson County was the first subgrantee in Florida to be approved for a grant award obligation under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance Alternative Procedures (PAAP) pilot program. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 20131 authorized PAAP and authorized FEMA to implement alternative procedures through the PAAP pilot program. Florida did not fulfill its grantee responsibility to ensure the County followed applicable Federal grant management requirements, and FEMA did not ensure the grantee carried out its responsibilities.
- Executive SummaryReport NumberOIG-19-12Issue DateDocument FileDHS AgencyOversight AreaFiscal Year2019
- Executive Summary
FEMA awarded the Chippewa Cree Tribe a $32.4 million Public Assistance Program grant for damages from a June 2010 flood disaster. The award provided 100 percent Federal funding to replace the Tribe’s severely damaged health clinic. The Tribe failed to manage a $32.4 million Public Assistance Program grant from FEMA according to Federal regulations and FEMA guidelines. As a result, FEMA has no assurance that expenditures the Tribe claimed for Project 2 (engineering and design), and plans to claim for Projects 132 (facility construction) and 133 (site preparation) are valid, allowable, or eligible. Therefore, FEMA should disallow about $22.3 million of the grant award for these three projects.Report NumberOIG-19-06Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2019
- Executive Summary
Following the January 13, 2018, false missile alert in Hawaii, Congress requested we examine the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) role in the incident. We concluded that FEMA has limited responsibility for the sending and canceling of state and local alerts. Following the Hawaii false missile alert, three U.S. Senators proposed legislation to define the federal government’s role during false missile alerts, as well as to direct FEMA to recommend best practices in the alerting process. We also identified two areas of concern regarding FEMA’s overall oversight of IPAWS. Although FEMA maintains IPAWS as a messaging platform, state and local alerting authorities must obtain commercially-available emergency alert software to generate a message which passes through IPAWS for authentication and delivery. However, we found that FEMA does not require that this software perform functions critical to the alerting process, such as the ability to preview or cancel an alert. Instead, FEMA only recommends that software vendors include these capabilities as “best practices.”Report NumberOIG-19-08Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2019
- Executive Summary
We conducted this audit to determine whether the Board accounted for and expended FEMA grant funds according to Federal regulations and FEMA guidelines. The Board sustained an estimated $90.6 million in damages caused by severe storms and flooding that occurred in August 2016. The Ascension Parish School Board (Board) accounted for disaster-related costs correctly, as Federal regulations require. However, the Board did not follow all Federal procurement regulations in awarding $25.6 million in disaster-related contracts, resulting in $9.1 million in ineligible costs. Additionally, there were issues with direct administrative costs related to a Recovery Program and Grants Management services contract. This occurred because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not ensure the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (Louisiana) monitored the Board’s subgrant activities for compliance with Federal procurement requirements.Report NumberOIG-19-05Issue DateDocument FileFiscal Year2019
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its Public Assistance (PA) Program, is currently responding to Hurricane Irma — one of the most catastrophic disasters in recent United States history. FEMA’s damage estimates for Florida and Georgia exceed $4.2 billion, with debris removal operations constituting approximately 36 percent of the total PA cost. Debris removal costs in Florida and Georgia are estimated to reach approximately $1.5 billion as of May 2018. FEMA’s guidance for debris monitoring lacks sufficient information to ensure adequate oversight. In the 2011
For Information Contact
Public Affairs (202) 254-4100
For Immediate ReleaseDownload PDF (186.81 KB)
CAMDEN, N.J. – An Ambler, Pennsylvania, man today admitted defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of thousands of dollars after Hurricane Sandy, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Nicholas Ochs, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court to Counts One (disaster benefit fraud) and Four (mail fraud) of the indictment against him.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
When a natural disaster or federal emergency occurs in the United States, federal agencies, such as FEMA, provide relief and assistance to affected individuals and entities. FEMA provides financial assistance by, among other things, helping affected individuals repair their property.
In October 2012, Cape May County suffered severe damage from wind, rain and flooding generated by Hurricane Sandy when it struck New Jersey. On Oct. 30, 2012, then-President Obama signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the State of New Jersey, enabling eligible individuals who were displaced by the storms to seek financial assistance from FEMA.
At the time of Hurricane Sandy, Ochs’s mother lived in a house in Ocean City, New Jersey. In January 2013, Ochs filed an application with FEMA on her behalf, seeking federal rental assistance and assistance for personal property damage under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. He claimed the property was damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy and was unfit for occupancy. An inspector working on behalf of FEMA inspected the property and determined that the property was uninhabitable, that repairs were required, and that the homeowner had moved. During the inspection, Ochs, acting with power of attorney, signed the application on behalf of his mother attesting that all the information on the application was true and correct. By signing the application, Ochs also acknowledged that any disaster relief money awarded would be returned if his mother received insurance benefits for the same loss.
FEMA initially denied Ochs’s claim, citing the fact that the property was covered by insurance. Ochs submitted documents to FEMA indicating that the insurance provider denied his mother’s claim. Based on that, in February 2013, FEMA awarded Ochs’s mother funds for rental assistance and home repair.
In applying to FEMA for home repair and rental assistance claiming that his mother was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, Ochs submitted fraudulent leases claiming that his mother was renting another property on the same block in Ocean City. Ochs also provided fictitious rental receipts. Ochs failed to disclose that the property his mother was renting was owned by his family and that no rent was ever paid. To support his mother’s continued need for rental assistance, Ochs was required to complete FEMA forms, and he faxed fraudulent lease agreements and rental receipts to FEMA.
In February 2013 Ochs contacted FEMA and made a false claim for transportation assistance, claiming that his mother’s 1985 Mercedes Benz was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and submitting fraudulent documentation to that effect.
Between February 2013 and December 2013, FEMA paid Ochs’ mother $17,229 for rental assistance and $4,345 for home repairs, through the issuance of direct deposits into bank accounts that Ochs controlled. Ochs then used the money to pay his personal expenses.
FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program indemnifies flood insurance providers when a claim is paid out. At the time of the storm, Wells Fargo Bank held the mortgage on Ochs’s mother’s property. After Ochs made a claim to the insurance provider, the insurance provider sent the insurance proceeds to Wells Fargo. To entice Wells Fargo to release the funds, Ochs presented fraudulent invoices and forms from a builder that over inflated the value of the work that the builders performed. Wells Fargo mailed numerous checks totaling $169,518 to the house in Ocean City. Ochs deposited the checks into bank accounts that he controlled and spent the money on personal expenses. The flood insurance claims were indemnified by FEMA.
The count of disaster benefits fraud to which Ochs pleaded guilty to carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The count of mail fraud to which he pleaded guilty carries a potential penalty of 30 years in prison and $1 million fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2019.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division in Camden.
Defense counsel: William J. Hughes Jr., Atlantic City, New JerseyTopic
- Executive Summary
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its Public Assistance (PA) Program, is currently responding to Hurricane Irma — one of the most catastrophic disasters in recent United States history. FEMA’s damage estimates for Florida and Georgia exceed $4.2 billion, with debris removal operations constituting approximately 36 percent of the total PA cost. Debris removal costs in Florida and Georgia are estimated to reach approximately $1.5 billion as of May 2018. FEMA’s guidance for debris monitoring lacks sufficient information to ensure adequate oversight. In the 2011 OIG report, FEMA’s Oversight and Management of Debris Removal Operations, we identified deficiencies in FEMA’s debris removal guidance. To resolve these deficiencies, we made 10 recommendations to, in part, strengthen FEMA’s debris removal guidance and procedure. In response, FEMA released additional criteria pertaining to debris estimating and monitoring to enhance the overall effectiveness of the process. FEMA removed the detailed responsibilities when it released its Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide (PAPPG). Going forward from the PAPPG version 1.0, FEMA relies solely on the subrecipient to monitor the debris removal operations, and removes monitoring responsibilities from both FEMA and the State. Subrecipients now have a greater responsibility to identify issues or concerns during debris removal operations. We made three recommendations that when implemented will strengthen FEMA’s debris monitoring operations. FEMA concurred with all recommendations.Report NumberOIG-18-85Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2018
- Executive Summary
Collectively, our FY 2017 work shows that FEMA continues to face systemic problems and operational challenges, as the variety of findings summarized in this report illustrates In FY 2017, FEMA did not manage disaster relief grants and funds adequately and did not hold grant recipients accountable for properly managing disaster relief funds. We continue to identify problems such as improper contract costs, and ineligible and unsupported expenditures.
In FY 2017, we identified $2.08 billion in questioned costs, which represents 96 percent of the $2.16 billion audited.2 We issued 37 reports concerning FEMA grants, programs, and operations funded by the DRF. Specifically, we conducted 16 grant audits, 13 proactive audits, and 8 program audits. In the last 9 fiscal years, we audited grant funds totaling $13.75 billion and reported potential monetary benefits of $6.55 billion.Report NumberOIG-18-75Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2018
- Executive Summary
FEMA needs to continue providing technical assistance to and monitoring of California’s Public Assistance grant funding management. This helps avoid the risk of exposing millions of taxpayer dollars to fraud, waste, or mismanagement and violating the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. In doing so, FEMA can assist California in providing reasonable, but not absolute assurance that Public Assistance subgrant funds are spent in accordance with Federal regulations and FEMA guidelines.Report NumberOIG-18-74Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2018