U.S. Examines Wildfire Cleanup Companies

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 26 (UPI) — Companies hired by San Diego to remove charred remains of homes destroyed in wildfires two years ago face a federal fraud investigation, authorities say.

The city hired A.J. Diani Construction of Santa Maria, Calif., and Granite Construction of Watsonville, Calif., after the 2007 wildfires. An investigation by The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper uncovered alleged discrepancies in the contractors’ bills to the city and the city attorney filed a false claims suit against the companies.

Since San Diego’s debris-removal program qualified for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, FEMA has requested a federal investigation into possible criminal fraud and misuse of taxpayer monies, the newspaper said.

Diani and Granite allegedly removed questionable quantities of debris, overcharged for materials, billed for work they didn’t perform and provided receipts that didn’t back up their billings, the Union-Tribune said.

Granite officials said they have not been informed of any investigation. Diani has not responded to media requests for comment.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Categorized | Trees & Forestry
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