News and Press Releases

springfield man falsely claimed to be joplin tornado victim,
pleads guilty to $160,000 fraud scheme

December 6, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Springfield, Mo., man who falsely claimed to be a Joplin, Mo., tornado victim pleaded guilty in federal court today to a fraud scheme in which he bounced more than $160,000 in bad checks at dozens of businesses in southwest Missouri.

Justin R. Compton, 31, of Springfield, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England to a federal information that charges him with bank fraud.

Compton admitted that he opened a checking account at Regions Bank in Ozark, Mo., on May 20, 2011. Although Compton did not deposit any funds in the account, he stole goods and services from various businesses in Greene, Barry, Jasper, Lawrence, and Taney counties by purchasing the goods and services using checks drawn on that bank account. Compton convinced businesses to accept the checks by falsely stating that he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and a victim of the May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin. Compton also attempted to keep the checking account open when checks began to be returned for insufficient funds by falsely telling a bank representative that his family had been victims of the Joplin tornado.

Compton engaged in similar schemes using accounts he opened at Higher One Bank, Armed Forces Bank and Academy Bank. Compton admitted that he wrote a total of 225 checks on those four bank accounts, with total losses of $160,672. The number of victims identified to date is well in excess of 50.

Under federal statutes, Compton is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1 million 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 U.S. Secret Service.

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