Former Joplin Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Related to Tornado Benefits
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Joplin, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a wire fraud conspiracy following the May 22, 2011 tornado.
John L. Williams, 31, of Memphis, Tenn., formerly of Joplin, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to the charge contained in a June 11, 2013, federal indictment.
According to today’s plea agreement, Williams engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the Economic Security Corporation of Southwest Area in Joplin. The not-for-profit corporation administered a rental assistance program, the Missouri Housing Trust Fund Disaster Relief Program. This program disbursed funds to landlords who rented to clients who had been displaced by natural disasters, including the May 22, 2011 tornado that struck Joplin.
Williams, who was not a landlord or property manager of Economic Security Corporation clients, conspired with others to submit fraudulent applications for rental assistance. Williams assisted in the scheme by serving as a purported landlord on two fraudulent applications for rental assistance, and also by accompanying other check recipients to the bank to cash their checks, in order to collect the proceeds of the fraud.
The Economic Security Corporation issued two rental assistance checks to Williams totaling $3,050. The total financial loss from the wire fraud conspiracy totaled $8,565.
Under federal statutes, Williams is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Disaster Fraud Hotline
Anyone with information about disaster fraud related to the Joplin tornado should call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721, the Joplin Police Department at 417-623-3131, or the FBI’s Joplin office at 417-206-5700.