New York (Press Trust of India): An NRI father-son duo in the United States have been charged with defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of funds meant for victims of hurricane Katrina.
Ramesh Patel, 51, and Chirag Patel, 26, of Union City, Georgia, were arraigned on Monday. The defendants were earlier indicted by a federal grand jury on June 19.
“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 bilked the taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for emergency housing. Such conduct simply will not be tolerated,” he said.
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 cheques.
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.
Of course, it is wrong to generalise because there must be millions of Indians who offer an exception. Of course, we are all in it for the money and money is what makes the world go round. And of course, there are bigger scams than these. But is the ability and determination to take people for a ride and the desire to get rich quick even in the face of death, despair and disaster a particular Indian trait?
Is corruption, pardon us for putting it so bluntly, in our genes—so much so that even if you take an Indian (or two or a million) out of India, it is impossible to take the essential Indian buddhi out of him?