Price Gouging Reported Following Ivan

Closer marine police patrols and the attorney general's price-gouging squads are part of a stepped-up campaign against crime in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. Alabama Attorney General Troy King says boat thefts on the storm-damaged Gulf Coast could occur, but he will go after cases of price-gouging and fraud.

King says some people have falsely represented themselves as FEMA-approved contractors, telling storm victims to pay in advance and seek FEMA reimbursement later. He says over 100 complaints have been received so far -- everything from people raising prices of ice, hotel rooms, plywood and generators.

King said 20 investigators from his office are handling the complaints -- they can be recognized by the bright yellow T-shirts they are wearing. Additional investigators from Attorneys General offices in other states have joined the effort. King warned that anyone attempting to profit off "misery and disaster" will be prosecuted.

State Marine Police Lt. Alex Smith said boats tossed about by a hurricane often end up miles from the beach marinas and become theft targets. He said individuals who attempt to recover boats in the coastal area hit by Ivan will be required to show ownership papers and other documents. National Guard members have joined local police in protecting the devastated coastline.

Alabama Associated Press