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Stimulus Projects Vulnerable To Fraud

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are teaming up to protect millions in federal stimulus dollars from fraud and abuse.

San Diego’s U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt says the latest figures show there are 189 stimulus projects in San Diego County totaling just over $1 billion. In Imperial County there are 21 projects worth $44 million.

“What we know from past experience is that where there is money of that magnitude, fraud often follows," Hewitt said. "We need these dollars, what we don’t need is for them to be dissipated for fraud purposes.”

Hewitt said more than 100 agencies that have been granted Recovery Act stimulus money are meeting with law enforcement officials in San Diego for a fraud prevention and awareness training.

They’re on the look-out for bid-rigging, price-fixing and fraudulent billing practices like double billing or charging for services not rendered.

The FBI estimates 7 to 10 percent of stimulus money could disappear to fraud.

Laura Chick, Inspector General for the State of California, said fraud in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was 17 percent. She said efforts to keep stimulus contracts transparent include requiring subcontractors to list the salaries of their top five executives. Chick said the public will have access to a great deal of information on the web about how the stimulus money is spent, and which companies will benefit.

The FBI has a TIP line for the public to call if fraud is suspected. It is 1-877-NO-BRIBE.

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