FIRST ARREST IN KATRINA INTERNET SCAM

 

R. Alexander Acosta

United States Attorney

Southern District of Florida

 

January 30 , 2006

 

AVENTURA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO HURRICANE KATRINA INTERNET SCAM

 

R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced today that defendant, Gary S. Kraser pled guilty to fraudulently soliciting charitable donations supposedly intended for Hurricane Katrina relief. Kraser pled guilty to wire fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 13, 2006 before the U.S. District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan.

According to Indictment, Kraser falsely claimed in conversations on the Internet, and ultimately via the website at www.AirKatrina.com, that he was piloting flights to Louisiana to provide medical supplies to the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and to evacuate children and others in critical medical condition. Kraser further claimed that he had organized a group of Florida pilots to assist him in his supposed relief efforts.

In one fraudulent Internet communication posted on August 30, 2005, Kraser pretended to have returned from Louisiana, and wrote, I am shaking as I write this, as I just arrived home, and just now allowed my body and mind to accept what I saw tonight . . . I am crying as I read this . . I saw people on their roofs, that had used axes more than likely to cut through the roof, waving at us, as they thought we were Air Rescue . . . I saw dogs wrapped in electrical lines still alive and sparks flying from their bodies being electrocuted, as well as some people dead already. If I had a helicopter, I would be there now rather than back in FL . . . I'm so sorry I couldn't do more . . . I'm crying and hugging my dog next to me now . . . I will hear these screams for the rest of my life. . .

In another fraudulent communication posted on August 31, 2005, Kraser wrote, Im flying full loads out, and offering the empty plane on the outbound for Air Ambulance. If we didnt have the plane, I dont think the little baby would have survived . . . She is undergoing transplant surgery at this moment I am writing . . . 7 mos old, and smiling the whole way, as if she knew . . . In yet another fraudulent posting, Kraser claimed that he tipped wings with AirForce One while over Louisiana.

According to the Indictment, Kraser claimed that he personally paid for these fictitious relief flights, and that he approved the creation of the website www.AirKatrina.com to solicit donations supposedly to purchase the fuel for his claimed humanitarian aid missions. According to the website, "every dollar, every nickel, [would] go directly into the tanks of these pilots planes on their mission of mercy."

The website allowed for donations to be made directly into Krasers PayPal account, a service that allows customers to send and receive money online for transactions conducted over the Internet. In addition, Kraser provided instructions for wiring contributions directly into his bank account. PayPal was among the first to cooperate with the investigation, and deserves our thanks. In just two days, Kraser received almost $40,000 in donations from forty-eight (48) different victims from around the world.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition, Mr. Acosta encouraged anyone with information about Hurricane Katrina fraud to contact law enforcement. Several existing government websites and resources are available to obtain information about, and report instances of, Katrina-related fraud. The FBI website, www.fbi.gov, contains updated alerts about particular types of charity-related frauds. Members of the public can also report instances of fraud on the Website for the FBIs Internet Crime Complaint Center, at www.ic3.gov. The Federal Trade Commission provides additional information at its website, www.ftc.gov, and a toll-free FTC hotline, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357, TTY/TDD: 202-326-2502), also allows consumers to report suspected fraud schemes, including Katrina-related fraud.

 

 

 

US Army National Guard: Red Cross Site Duplicated

 

 

FIRST ARREST IN KATRINA INTERNET SCAM

 

 

INDICTMENT : USA v. GARY S. KRASER

 

R. Alexander Acosta

United States Attorney

Southern District of Florida

 

October 3, 2005

 

AVENTURA MAN CHARGED WITH HURRICANE KATRINA INTERNET SCAM

 

R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael S. Clemens, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced today the Indictment and arrest of defendant, Gary S. Kraser, for fraudulently soliciting charitable donations supposedly intended for humanitarian relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Kraser was charged with four counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.

 

According to Indictment, Kraser falsely claimed in conversations on the Internet, and ultimately via the website at www.AirKatrina.com, that he was piloting flights to Louisiana to provide medical supplies to the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and to evacuate children and others in critical medical condition. Kraser further claimed that he had organized a group of Florida pilots to assist him in his supposed relief efforts.

 

In one fraudulent Internet communication posted on August 30, 2005, Kraser pretended to have returned from Louisiana, and wrote, "I am shaking as I write this, as I just arrived home, and just now allowed my body and mind to accept what I saw tonight . . . I am crying as I read this . . . I saw people on their roofs, that had used axes more than likely to cut through the roof, waving at us, as they thought we were Air Rescue . . . I saw dogs wrapped in electrical lines still alive and sparks flying from their bodies being electrocuted, as well as some people dead already. If I had a helicopter, I would be there now rather than back in FL . . . I'm so sorry I couldn't do more . . . I'm crying and hugging my dog next to me now . . . I will hear these screams for the rest of my life".. . .

 

In another fraudulent communication posted on August 31, 2005, Kraser wrote, "I'm flying full loads out, and offering the empty plane on the outbound for Air Ambulance. If we didn't have the plane, I don't think the little baby would have survived . . . She is undergoing transplant surgery at this moment I am writing . . . 7 mos old, and smiling the whole way, as if she knew . . ." In yet another fraudulent posting, Kraser claimed that he "tipped wings" with AirForce One while over Louisiana.

According to the Indictment, Kraser claimed that he personally paid for these fictitious relief flights, and that he approved the creation of the website www.AirKatrina.com, to solicit donations supposedly to purchase the fuel for his claimed humanitarian aid missions. According to the website, "every dollar, every nickel, [would] go directly into the tanks of these pilots planes on their mission of mercy".

 

The website allowed for donations to be made directly into Kraser's PayPal account, a service that allows customers to send and receive money online for transactions conducted over the Internet. In addition, Kraser provided instructions for wiring contributions directly into his bank account. PayPal was among the first to cooperate with the investigation, and deserves our thanks. In just two days, Kraser received almost $40,000 in donations from forty-eight (48) different victims from around the world.

 

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales recently created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, designed to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud, identity theft and insurance fraud. The Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force -- chaired by Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division -- includes members from the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Postal Inspector's Office, and the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys, among others. This is the first Hurricane Katrina Internet charity fraud case brought by the Department of Justice and is part of the Attorney General's nationwide efforts to prosecute those who seek to benefit from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.

United States Attorney Acosta stated, "The dreams, homes, and lives of thousands of families have been destroyed. Our goal with this prosecution, and with the creation of the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, is to help restore the hope and faith of the victims of Katrina in their fellow Americans' willingness to help. It is simply unconscionable and intolerable that anyone would seek a personal financial benefit from the horrible human tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina".

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Clemens stated, "Catastrophes, for the most part, bring out the best in people. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina we have seen extraordinary acts of heroism and kindness. Unfortunately, catastrophes also bring out the worst in some people. The public should be assured that the FBI will not tolerate individuals who fraudulently take advantage of these types of disasters and will investigate thoroughly any alleged criminal activity".

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition, Mr. Acosta encouraged anyone with information about Hurricane Katrina fraud to contact law enforcement. Several existing government websites and resources are available to obtain information about, and report instances of, Katrina-related fraud. The FBI website, www.fbi.gov, contains updated alerts about particular types of charity-related frauds. Members of the public can also report instances of fraud on the Website for the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, at www.ic3.gov. The Federal Trade Commission provides additional information at its website, www.ftc.gov, and a toll-free FTC hotline, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357, TTY/TDD: 202-326-2502), also allows consumers to report suspected fraud schemes, including Katrina-related fraud.

 

 

Gary S. Kraser - Kraser told NBC 6's Sharon Lawson in a Sept. 4 interview that he was working a mission with Air Ambulance. Authorities had shut down his Web site two days before.

 

Mercy flights seek pilots, planes 2/9/05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FBI/IFCC : Phishing Red Cross E-Mail Alert

 

 

2 ARRESTS IN KATRINA RED CROSS

 

FBI Affidavit: USA v. TINO LEE & G. L. NICHOLAS

 

 

INDICTMENT : USA v. TINO LEE & G. L. NICHOLAS

 

 

 

Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California

 

September 17, 2005

 

TWO CHARGED WITH IMPERSONATING RED CROSS OFFICIALS TO 'COLLECT' DONATIONS FOR VICTIMS OF HURRICANE KATRINA


A Burbank man and a Glendale woman have been charged with posing as American Red Cross volunteers and soliciting money under the false pretense that donations would assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Tino Lee, 44, and Gina Liz Nicholas, 19, were named in a criminal complaint filed late Friday night in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Lee and Nicholas are each charged with impersonating someone associated with the American Red Cross for the purpose of soliciting money, a felony offense that carries a potential penalty of five years in federal prison.

Lee and Nicholas allegedly were soliciting donations on behalf of the American Red Cross outside an electronics store in Burbank. They were arrested Thursday evening by officers with the Burbank Police Department after officers determined they did not have any paperwork linking them to the American Red Cross.

On Friday, the case was turned over the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which confirmed that Lee and Nicholas were not acting on behalf of the American Red Cross.

The case against Lee and Nicholas is the first federal case brought in the nation alleging a Hurricane Katrina scam. The United States Department of Justice recently established the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, which is designed to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud and insurance fraud..

"We have taken a zero-tolerance position against those who would use a national tragedy such as Hurricane Katrina to line their pockets with money intended for victims," said United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang. "Victims of the hurricane should know that we will do everything to ensure that aid graciously donated by fellow Americans will reach those in need. And those wanting to assist and lend a hand to those less fortunate should know that any scam targeting their generosity will be shut down and those responsible will be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

Officials with the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles say the organization rarely has individual volunteers soliciting donations outside stores or in other public locations. When they do such solicitations it is normally in partnership with other organizations, like the Fire Department, and the media. Additionally, Red Cross volunteers will always offer a receipt for cash donations, although the agency prefers that donors write checks made out to the "American Red Cross."

Lee and Nicholas are expected to make their initial court appearance in federal court in downtown Los Angeles Monday afternoon. They will remain in the custody of local authorities until Monday morning.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Burbank Police Department.