The Oklahoma Department of Insurance's anti-fraud unit has been patrolling the streets of Moore since the May 20 tornado ravaged the area. The idea behind the early patrols has been to curb fraud activity before it even starts.
Mike Copeland is the head of the anti-fraud unit. He and an agent from North Carolina rolled through neighborhoods Thursday to check in on companies who have started repairing damaged homes. What they have been running into are businesses who do not have a City of Moore permit to perform work. This is an extra step that companies making repairs needed to get before they started work.
"Every time we have contact with somebody and they know we're out here. They know people are watching them and that's a little bit of a deterrence right there," explained Copeland.
He cross-references the names of companies on signs, trucks and houses. If they are not on a master list his agents update twice-a-day, they get a citation. Within minutes, Copeland finds a non-compliant company and explains to them that they need to get a permit through the city in order to operate in Moore. The fine costs the contractor about $230.
He runs into the same situation over and over but says it is important to make sure these contractors get the proper permits through the City of Moore to filter out fraudulent contractors. Copeland explained that some of the companies were just unaware of the rules but others try cheating the system.
"A lot of them said they were going to get licenses and then didn't they just didn't come back to work. They just somehow left and went away. And then there was one person that we caught that was back at work even after he's been cited," Copeland said.
Copeland said we are only in the beginning stage of fraud. Over the next several weeks and months, he expects to see an increase in the number of complaints filed against companies that steal from tornado victims.
The list of permitted contractors in the City of Moore can be found at City Hall.