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On Saturday, March 22, a mile-wide mudflow devastated Oso, Wash., 55 miles north of Seattle. The massive damage and mounting casualties have rocked the small community between Arlington and Darrington.

Prosecutors Warn Scammers To Leave Oso Alone

KUOW Photo/Phyllis Fletcher

Federal and county prosecutors issued a warning to people who might use the Oso disaster for their own personal gain. They said they are watching for people who rip off donors or take advantage of victims.

Prosecutors said they are concerned that the Oso slide will follow the pattern of disasters like Hurricane Katrina, where criminals swept in shortly after the situation stabilized.  

Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe said at a news conference the concern is that people will use the disaster to scam donors and survivors. "If somebody rips these people off, a particularly vulnerable victim, they can expect that we will seek the harshest sentence possible," he said.

People with concerns about fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of disaster relief can contact the Disaster Fraud Hotline.

Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for Western Washington, said victims of the Oso slide must be protected. "Those people have suffered a tremendous amount,” she said. “We will not stand by and let them have additional suffering, or be victimized by those who may try to take advantage of their suffering."

Prosecutors said people should only give personal information to organizations they know well.