News and Press Releases

two joplin residents sentenced for disaster fraud
related to joplin tornado benefits

November 16, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two Joplin, Mo., residents have been sentenced in federal court, in separate and unrelated cases, for fraudulently receiving federal disaster benefits following the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Wanda Gail McBride, 51, of Joplin, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to six months in federal prison without parole, followed by three years of supervised release. The court also ordered McBride to pay $5,628 in restitution. McBride pleaded guilty to disaster fraud on July 10, 2012.

Ronald Martell Irby, 30, of Joplin, was sentenced on Nov. 8, 2012, to 15 months in federal prison without parole, followed by five years of supervised release. The court also ordered Irby to pay $5,114 in restitution. Irby pleaded guilty to disaster fraud on July 6, 2012.

McBride falsely claimed that she was entitled to temporary rental assistance because she moved out of her home due to damage caused by the tornado and rented another residence. McBride was initially awarded $4,786 by FEMA for repairs to her residence, as well as $938 for rental assistance. McBride later submitted fraudulent documentation in order to receive $5,628 in additional rental assistance. McBride admitted that she submitted two fabricated rental receipts with her application for FEMA rental assistance in July 2011. Later that month, she submitted a fabricated lease agreement for FEMA rental assistance at another address. McBride admitted that she had never moved to, resided at, signed a lease for, or paid rent at either address; in fact, neither address exists.

Irby applied for federal disaster benefits by falsely claiming that his home and property had been damaged or destroyed in the tornado. He admitted that he made materially false and fraudulent statements to FEMA in his application for disaster benefits. Irby listed 1823 W. 23rd St., Joplin, as his primary residence on a FEMA form in which he claimed the residence was damaged by the tornado. Irby received a total of $5,114 in FEMA payments and was provided with a temporary housing unit. However, Irby admitted that this was never his primary residence.  Rather, Irby’s girlfriend had been a one-time resident, who was evicted prior to the tornado.  Further, Irby himself had been banned from the property.

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.

These cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. They were investigated by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations-Office of Inspector General, and the Joplin, Mo., Police Department.

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