RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The FBI says fighting public corruption is its number one priority. So, the bureau is ready to come down hard on anyone caught with their hand in the economic stimulus cookie jar.
It was the centerpiece of President Obama's effort to rescue a fledgling economy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will inject 787-billion dollars in the U.S. economy, providing jobs and other resources for the state and local communities.
"In Virginia I think there's 329 different projects that are being funded. That's about 558 million coming into the local economy," said Richmond's FBI White Collar Crimes Supervising Special Agent Michael Schuler.
Schuler says with large sums of cash come the potential for fraud, whether it's at a corporation or the federal, state or local government.
"You find out where the vulnerable targets are and that's where we're going to expend resources on monitoring different funding coming in and just seeing where the money is going," said Schuler.
So what's most vulnerable to corruption and fraud?
- Transportation and infrastructure projects by way of bribing contracting officers and inspectors and fraudulent billing.
- Education projects where independent school boards have full spending authority and little oversight.
- Energy and environmental efforts to go green... A booming industry that can lead to more opportunities for fraud.
- Housing, where foreclosure and redevelopment grants present chances to manipulate programs for personal gain.
Schuler says big bucks or chump change, nothing is acceptable when it comes to violating the public's trust.
"It harms all levels of government. If you can't trust your local police officials or your local government, who can you trust?" Schuler said.
And as the money rolls out over the next two years, the bureau has its sight squarely focused on grabbing the corrupt before they can grab your tax dollars.
The FBI says it also needs the public to be vigilant in trying to make sure these billions of stimulus dollars are spent properly.
You can call the Richmond Corruption Hotline at 804-627-4597 or submit a tip online at http://tips.fbi.gov.