The 37-foot storm surge and pounding winds that obliterated all but about 40 homes in Waveland were soon followed by another flood — hundreds of millions of federal disaster-recovery dollars flowing from the nation’s capital.

It was part of a geyser of billions of dollars to rebuild South Mississippi after the worst natural disaster in American history, an outpouring that also sent auditors and FBI agents scattering across the Coast to trace how the money was spent and who might have tried to steal it.

A McClatchy review of criminal prosecutions and of scores of audits by the Inspector General’s Office for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests although most of the money served its purposes, hundreds of crooks and connivers succeeded in snagging some of it. In the scramble to recover, federal requirements often were ignored or went unnoticed.

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