News and Press Releases

two joplin men sentenced for disaster fraud
related to tornado benefits

January 14, 2014

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

Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, both of Joplin, were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Brownlee and Williams were each sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Brownlee to pay $2,750 in restitution and ordered Williams to pay $1,196 in restitution.

On Aug. 5, 2013, Brownlee pleaded guilty to making materially fraudulent statements and representations to FEMA in connection with his application for disaster assistance. Brownlee completed a FEMA application for disaster assistance on May 26, 2011, claiming that his Joplin residence had been damaged by the tornado. Brownlee received a payment of $2,750. However, Brownlee admitted that the address he used in his FEMA application was actually the address of the Lazarus Ministries Halfway house, which was not his residence at the time of the tornado. Brownlee previously resided there, but moved out prior to the tornado.

Williams pleaded guilty on March 8, 2013, to making materially fraudulent statements and representations to FEMA in connection with his application for disaster assistance. Williams admitted that when he filed for disaster relief on May 27, 2011, he listed a Joplin address as his primary residence and claimed that it had been damaged by the tornado. FEMA authorized a $1,196 payment to Williams. Williams admitted, however, that he was not living at that address at the time of the tornado, but had moved out in February 2011.

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

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.

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