Scam artists target relief effort - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Scam artists target relief effort

Hurricane evacuees continue to apply for aid at Red Cross service centers like this one at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. But some Mid-South crooks apparently see it as a potential slam dunk.

"I find it unconscionable," says MPD Spokesman Vince Higgins.

This lady was the first to get caught allegedly posing as a hurricane victim in Memphis. Police say Emma Hill used a fake name, claimed she evacuated from Gulfport Mississippi, and applied for a $1500 relief check.

"And it turns out that her story didn't add up," says Higgins.

A Red Cross caseworker got suspicious when two addresses Hill gave didn't match.

"And then we took it to the police department, ran information, and discovered she was indeed here the day the hurricane hit," says American Red Cross mid-south CEO Bill Hildebrandt.

Red Cross officials say during any disaster there are opportunists who see disaster relief aid as easy money.

"The sad thing is there are some people that really need that and there are folks trying to take that away from them," says Hildebrandt.

The good news? At least some of them are getting caught. And in Memphis, cases like Emma Hill's are not taken likely.

"Any crimes where the Katrina victims are targeted would be a no deal policy--and I suspect this will be handled in that same manner," says Higgins.

Emma Hill was charged with forgery and attempted theft. She was released on bond. Police continue to follow leads on other fraudulent claims.

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