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LI engineer says Senate investigators didn't contact him on flood allegations

Engineer Andrew Braum inspects a crawl space under

Engineer Andrew Braum inspects a crawl space under a Long Beach home after superstorm Sandy on April 25, 2013. Credit: Paige Braum

A Long Island engineer who says he witnessed superstorm Sandy victims being cheated out of flood insurance settlements is criticizing a U.S. Senate report on the allegations, saying it wrongly claims he refused to cooperate with the probe.

The Bellmore-based engineer, Andrew Braum, said Monday that investigators for the Senate Banking Committee never contacted him regarding their June 22 report, which concluded there was no evidence of widespread fraud after the 2012 storm.

"If they did reach out to me, I would have gladly . . . showed them evidence," said Braum, who estimated 190 of the damage reports he wrote after Sandy were secretly rewritten in an effort to underpay claims.

The allegations that Sandy victims were cheated out of flood insurance settlements have led to two ongoing criminal probes and widespread media coverage, including on "60 Minutes" in March.

The Banking Committee report, however, concluded that underpayments were rare and that engineering firms hired to inspect homes had no incentive to falsify damage reports.

The four-month study did not examine individual allegations of fraud, in part, it said, because the "three self-proclaimed 'whistleblower' engineers who appeared on '60 Minutes' refused to speak to us."

Braum, who was the only engineer who appeared on the program, sent a letter to Shelby Monday asking for the statement to be retracted.

A spokeswoman for the chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, said that investigators did call Braum but didn't hear back.

The identities of the other two whistleblowers cited in the report are unclear. Two other engineers, Harold Weinberg and George Hernemar, have provided written and oral testimony in court about the alleged fraud, but neither appeared on "60 Minutes." A lawyer for Weinberg said he was unaware of Banking Committee investigators ever contacting his client. Attempts to reach Hernemar were unsuccessful.

New York's Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer have said the report's findings are based on questionable data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Congress should be listening to engineers like Andrew Braum who are telling us how the system is rigged and demanding real reform from FEMA," Gillibrand said. "Mr. Braum's letter is another red flag on a report that already didn't add up."

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