The Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans will pay more than $ 1 million after being accused of submitting fraudulent claims to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Hurricane Katrina reported on Monday. US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The alleged false claims were made to cover the repairs that the Archdiocese declared necessary after the deadly and destructive hurricane ravaged the region in August 2005. The claims were made between 2007 and 2013 and were prepared for the Archdiocese by the Los Angeles-based engineering company. AECOM, the DOJ said in a press release on Monday.
Concerns over the claims were initially raised in a 2016 lawsuit filed by a whistleblower to AECOM. A copy of the new settlement agreement released by the DOJ this week said the whistleblower previously alleged that the Archdiocese of New Orleans violated the False Claims Act by claiming funds to cover repair costs related to the hurricane. The DOJ said it got involved in the case last year.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana described FEMA funding as “a critical component” to helping those in need following a natural disaster.
“The favorable resolution of this False Claims Act case illustrates the collaborative efforts and firm commitment of our federal partners to use all available remedies to combat signs of fraud, waste and abuse,” said the US attorney’s office said in the DOJ statement.
In its settlement agreement, the DOJ alleged that the Archdiocese requested funds to repair three buildings based on inaccurate descriptions of the damage to those buildings or on false estimates of the cost of those repairs. In one example, the DOJ said that AECOM filed a request for the Archdiocese to repair an air conditioning system that was not there at the time of the hurricane. In another example, the Justice Department alleged that the Archdiocese “misstated the square footage” of a building.
These types of supposedly fixed details have led to either higher estimates for repairs or a total minimization of the estimated costs of replacing a building, the DOJ said.
The archdiocese “certified the accuracy” of the claims despite the exaggerations included in some estimates, the DOJ said.
As part of the settlement agreement, the Archdiocese will pay the United States a total of $ 1,050,000, with the first $ 300,000 due within one month and the last payment due within the next two years. .
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana approved the DOJ’s settlement with the Archdiocese of New Orleans in late October, the DOJ said.
News week has contacted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans for comment.