NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Dallas-based architecture and engineering firm, AECOM, has agreed to pay $11.8 million to resolve allegations that it made false claims to FEMA for the replacement of educational facilities in Louisiana that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
AECOM served as a technical assistance contractor in support of FEMA disaster recovery efforts between 2006 and 2010.
During this time, the firm prepared requests for public assistance funds for applicants consisting of damage descriptions, estimates of the cost to repair damage and estimates of the cost to replace structures.
FEMA operated under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide PA funds to institutional applicants, schools and universities for the repair or replacement of facilities.
“FEMA plays an essential role in helping communities recover from natural disasters,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Today’s settlement sends a strong message that FEMA contractors, as well as funding recipients, must provide truthful and accurate information so that FEMA’s resources are used to help those truly in need.”
The allegations revealed an officer stationed in Louisiana for Hurricane Katrina submitted fraudulent requests for disaster assistance for several New Orleans facilities. This resulted in applicants receiving an excessive amount of funding, more than what FEMA allowed.
The facilities included Xavier University’s gymnasium, student center and electrical grid and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans’ St. Raphael the Archangel School cafeteria building.
“Federal disaster funds are instrumental in the effort to aid disaster victims with their recovery,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “The favorable resolution of this False Claims Act matter illustrates the collaborative efforts and firm commitment by our federal partners to use all available remedies to address signs of fraud, waste, and abuse.”
The United States has since recovered almost $25 million in connection with the applications prepared by AECOM.
The courts have also settled with Xavier University of Louisiana and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.
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