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June 20, 2016

HPD To Flood Victims: Beware of FEMA Scam

The Houston Police Department reminds victims of our recent flood disasters to be aware of scams involving those falsely representing themselves as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) employees.

Following an investigation into at least three incidents of fraud/forgery related to the recent flooding in the Houston area, the HPD Financial Crimes Unit identified and arrested a suspect, Derron L. Skinner, (b/m, 25), on June 16.

A photo of Skinner, who is charged with forgery can be found here
http://www.houstongovnewsroom.org/go/doc/2155/2840450/

The victims had filed claims for damages from the recent flooding.  One of the victims told investigators a friend of hers knew someone who worked at FEMA and could help them handle their claims.  The victims were contacted by Skinner, who represented himself as a FEMA employee.  The victims' claim information was provided to Skinner and they were instructed to meet him at their respective banks.  Skinner then gave them several checks at one time, usually less than $1,000 each, and instructed them to deposit the funds via an ATM.  The following day, Skinner met the victims again at their respective banks where they withdrew a significant amount of money (reportedly for fees and inspectors) and gave him the cash.  A few days later, the checks were charged back as fraudulent, leaving the victims responsible for any money the bank did not recover, usually the amount given to Skinner.

Investigators believe there may be more victims and urge anyone who may have been contacted by Skinner to call the HPD Financial Crimes Unit at 713-308-2500 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

For more information on how to protect yourself from disaster-related fraud and scams, visit http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2016/06/17/
protect-yourself-disaster-related-fraud-and-scams