John Minchillo / AP
In the days after the Super Shundi soaked the East Coast, the Department of Transportation in New York cataloged the damage to the agency's fleet. This information was handed over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which would give the city enough money to replace the damaged vehicles with new ones.
Only one problem: Many of these vehicles were damaged before Sandy's hit. Some of them have not worked for years and have been marked to save long before the storm.
The city has already agreed to reimburse the federal government $ 5.3 million for its fake claims, according to the deal proposed Wednesday
City authorities who certify that the vehicles were damaged during Sandy, or they knew they were making false declarations, or they did it "with reckless neglect or deliberate blindness in their truth," said New York Southern District Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
"When people lie to FEMA about the cause of property damage to take advantage of unexpected consequences, it compromises FEMA's ability to provide financial assistance to legitimate disaster victims in desperate need," Berman said in a statement.
When looking at the fleet, city officials "only consider whether the vehicle has suffered damage during the storm, regardless of the state of the vehicle before – Sandy – said the complaint.Therefore," many of the vehicles fleet the services included in its "final" list of vehicles damaged by Sandy, were not exploited – and some were even marked to rescue – years before Sandy. "
The DOT said she first learned about the problem in 2016 , when an American lawyer warned of claims that Sandy's reimbursement claims are too broad DOT tells NPR that he has "cooperated fully" with an investigation and since then has put in place stricter procedures to reduce the risk of it happening again, including a new employee compliance and a centralized, comprehensive tracking system for thousands of vehicles from the agency fleet.
But under the agreement, the city employee initially notified the city of unacceptable claims in 2014. The DOT Deputy Commissioner who signed the certificate stating that Sandy had caused the damage was notified by the employee in June 2014 that some of these vehicles have been "garbage for years". This officer said the DOT itself told NYPD in 2009 that the flooring machines were "sitting under the highway in the dump for seven years and were taken [ed] apart from vandals," the complaint said. This email, the city continues to seek refunds from FEMA for these vehicles.
Only after the city has learned about the US prosecutor's investigation, he has changed his request by offering to return more than $ 3 million for seven passenger cars he has mistakenly included.
But the US Attorney claims the city has still claimed reimbursement for several additional vehicles that were damaged before the storm.
"With so many residents of New York affected by Superstorm Sandy, it is crucial to ensure that every dollar of aid money is properly used and accounted for," said Mark Tasky, US Department of State Special Agent for internal security
Vanessa Romo from the NAP contributed to this report.