[home of Springfield Armory, and Armalite.]
A Geneseo, Ill., man is facing federal charges for allegedly claiming to be a victim of Hurricane Katrina and getting relief funds from the American Red Cross.
Timothy W. Seefeldt, 31, of No. 5 Woodcrest Drive, was charged in U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, this week with one count of wire fraud.
U.S. Attorney Rodger A. Heaton said this is the first such case involving misuse of hurricane relief funds filed in his district, which includes the Illinois portion of the Quad-Cities.
“In any instance where we’re aware the federal government has been wronged in this way it will be our intention to prosecute it,” he said. “Taking a tragic incident and turning it to your personal benefit, it’s unacceptable.”
According to an affidavit filed in court, Seefeldt went to the American Red Cross office in Moline on Sept. 19 to apply for hurricane disaster relief. He met with a volunteer and filled out an application for benefits.
In the application, Seefeldt allegedly claimed his primary residence was 853 Lackland Drive, Biloxi, Miss. He was given a debit card in the amount of $360 and had allegedly spent all but $2.23 by the next day, the affidavit states.
Seefeldt also asked for housing assistance. A volunteer with the American Red Cross in Moline called Corporate Lodging Consultants, Inc., in Wichita, Kan., to arrange for lodging. The American Red Cross had contracted with the company to provide lodging for disaster victims.
Seefeldt allegedly received 14 nights at the Best Western Steeplegate Inn in Davenport at the rate of $59.95 per night, according to the affidavit.
Leslie Anthony, a spokeswoman for the Quad-City chapter of the American Red Cross, declined comment Wednesday on the charge filed against Seefeldt. She said the organization cannot comment because of the ongoing investigation and because they keep their relief work confidential.
On Sept. 21, Seefeldt allegedly applied for disaster relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, through a telephone call, the affidavit states.
FEMA reportedly issued two checks to Seefeldt; one on Sept. 22 for $2,000 and another on Oct. 15 for $2,358 for rental assistance. The first check was cashed Sept. 24 in Davenport, but the second was seized by the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department before it could be cashed, the affidavit alleges.
On Nov. 29, a U.S. Secret Service agent spoke with a resident at the Biloxi address and confirmed that Seefeldt never had lived there, the affidavit states.
The investigation found no evidence that Seefeldt was in Mississippi in late August when the hurricane hit or that he had any interest in any of the property that was damaged, the court records state.
Seefeldt made his first appearance in court this week and remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s office.
He is also facing felony charges in Rock Island County Circuit Court for armed robbery, robbery and aiding in the sell of a stolen vehicle in a separate case. He’s been in custody on those charges since Oct. 3.
If convicted, the federal wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.