- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Nine persons were charged with bilking the American Red Cross of at least $25,000 donated for Hurricane Katrina victims, the FBI said.

Four suspects were contract workers at a Red Cross national call center in Bakersfield, Calif., U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said Tuesday. The other five are accused of picking up checks to which they were not entitled.

The Red Cross said it set up the national call center in Bakersfield for Hurricane Katrina victims seeking assistance.

Operators provide qualifying victims with a personal identification number (PIN) that they then present to receive funds from Western Union.

“The bad guys would call their buddies and give them PIN numbers,” Mr. Scott said.

Bakersfield residents Trent Jermaine Preslie, 33; Aminah Randle, 19; Robert Johnson, 23; Miko Shannia Nobles, 22; Tonjua Randle, 39; Sheena Porter, 21; Stanley Lewis, 44; and Candice Brown, 20, were arrested on suspicion of wire fraud. A ninth suspect, Elizabeth Ray, also was charged but remained at large.

The Red Cross contacted the FBI after discovering “that way too many people in Bakersfield were getting aid,” Mr. Scott said.

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