Hurricane Katrina Cybersquatting and Fraud Leads to Jail

US Department of Justice logoTwo brothers who registered the domain name salvationarmyonline.org on 3 September 2005, less than a week after Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, were sentenced to jail for more than eight and nine years jail for fraudulently collecting money for Hurricane Katrina victims on behalf of the Salvation Army.

According to the Department of Justice, the website stated it was “The Salvation Army International Home Page” and falsely purported to solicit charitable donations for Hurricane Katrina, and later Hurricane Rita, relief. A link on the Web site directed contributors to donate via PayPal. The defendants created numerous accounts with the service and registered those accounts using the names and identification information, including Social Security numbers, of other individuals not involved in the fraudulent scheme. The accounts, however, were linked by the brothers to bank accounts belonging to one or both of them. The fraudulent website collected more than $48,000 before all the accounts were frozen.

This is one case where more than 900 defendants were charged with disaster-related fraud by Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force during three years of operation.

More information on further prosecutions is available from the Department of Justice website at justice.gov/opa/pr/2008/October/08-crm-877.html.