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2 Indian-Americans indicted in FEMA fraud

June 28, 2007 15:00 IST

A non resident Indian father-son duo in the United States have been charged with defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency of funds meant for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Ramesh Patel, 51, and Chirag Patel, 26, of Union City, Georgia, were arraigned Monday. The defendants were earlier indicted by a federal grand jury on June 19, a media report said.

"These defendants allegedly billed FEMA by claiming that Hurricane Katrina evacuees stayed at their hotel on certain nights, when in fact they did not stay at their hotel," said US Attorney David Nahmias.

"They took advantage of the chaos created by Hurricane Katrina and robbed the taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for emergency housing. Such conduct simply will not be tolerated," he was quoted as saying by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Since October 2005, Ramesh and Chirag Patel owned and operated the Comfort Inn hotel at 6800 Shannon Parkway in Union City.

The hotel housed several Katrina evacuees in several pre-designated rooms.

Once the evacuee checked in, the defendants submitted periodic requests for payment to FEMA for housing the evacuees. FEMA paid the hotel by mailing checks.

An investigation into the requests for payment revealed, however, that the hotel had billed FEMA for guests who either did not stay at the hotel, or had left the hotel and found a permanent residence, the report said.

The rooms that were supposedly occupied by these evacuees were rented out to non-evacuee guests, or were occupied by the defendants' family members.

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