Real and phony public officials have taken advantage of Hurricane Andrew's aftermath to steal from victims, government spokesmen said Saturday.
"Any time you have a disaster like this, people are going to prey on others," said Jim Aguirre of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.In hard-hit Florida City, five outreach workers hired by FEMA were arrested after allegedly taking items from people they were supposed to be helping.
The five identified themselves as Florida City police officers "and proceeded to invade the homes and take personal property," said City Manager Richard Anderson.
When they were arrested in another county following a series of complaints, the men claimed again to be police officers, he said.
Real police officers in Homestead wound up on the carpet after five generators confiscated from price-gougers wound up in their homes, said internal affairs investigator Sgt. Ed Rowe.
But they won't be prosecuted because of the severe stress, he said.
"We're talking about people living with families with no power," Rowe said. "It happened, and we're going to have to live with that."
The Army Corps of Engineers, which charges nothing to clear property and waterways, is worried about scam artists who are telling people they must sign a release to have their property cleared.
Only later do the victims discovered they have signed a contract with a private firm.
"It only takes one or two for us to go into action," said Corps spokeswoman Cathy Schuchter. "They're isolated incidents, but we're real concerned about it."
The Corps does sometimes ask property owners to sign "entry forms," which give it the right to work on private property.
"If it says anything about money, don't sign it," Schuchter said.