News and Press Releases

Three North Mississippi Men Indicted
for Disaster Relief Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11, 2012

Felicia C. Adams, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, and James E. Ward, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, announced that:

Ronnie G. Beard, 46, of Okolona, James W. Pulliam, 62, of Mansfield, Texas, and Richard C. (“Chris”) Ungren, 38, of Olive Branch, have been charged as defendants in three separate indictments by the federal grand jury for the Northern District of Mississippi. Each faces charges of making fraudulent claims for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) benefits following the tornado and flooding disasters that hit Mississippi in the Spring of 2011.

Beard faces a two-count indictment that charges he knowingly and fraudulently applied for FEMA assistance pertaining to damage to a house located in Okolona following the April 27, 2011, tornadoes that passed through the state causing damage to several communities.

Pulliam faces a two-count indictment that charges he knowingly and fraudulently applied for FEMA assistance pertaining to damage to a house located in Houston following the same storms.

Ungren is charged in a two-count indictment alleging a fraudulent claim for FEMA benefits pertaining to a house in Tunica following severe flooding in that area in early May, 2011.

All three defendants are accused of claiming benefits for damage to a building that they fraudulently identified as their primary residence, when in fact, the property in question was not their primary residence. FEMA benefits are limited to a person’s primary residence. All three men face up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000.00 fine if convicted on all counts. Each man likewise could be ordered to pay restitution. All three defendants appeared today before United States Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander. Ungren was released on a $10,000 bond. Pulliam and Beard were each released on a $5,000 bond. Trial dates have not yet been set.

Felicia C. Adams, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi said:

“It is vitally important that people who suffered damage to their primary residence during last year’s disasters be able to access federal emergency assistance without being hindered by those who fraudulently seek to apply for benefits to which they are not entitled. The United States Attorney’s Office will vigorously prosecute disaster fraud so that those who qualify for needed assistance are able to receive it.”

James E. Ward, Special Agent in Charge for the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General stated:

“The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General is dedicated to investigating fraud related to DHS programs, specifically FEMA Emergency Disaster Relief Funds. The charges against these three defendants serve as an example of our commitment to investigating FEMA fraud allegations and pursuing federal prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. DHS-OIG places a high priority on the investigation of these types of crimes, which negatively impact our federal system and programs that are intended for law abiding citizens.”

These cases are being investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General and are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Mims and John Marshall Alexander.

Copies of the indictments are attached. An indictment is merely a charge and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Anyone who has knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, may contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at (866) 720-5721. Information can also be sent by fax to (225) 334-4707, by e-mail to disaster@leo.gov or by writing to National Center for Disaster Fraud, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4909. Calls can be made anonymously and confidentially.

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USAO Homepage
USAO Briefing Room
Disaster Fraud Hotline

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at:

(866) 720-5721

You can also fax information to:

(225) 334-4707

or e-mail it to:

disaster@leo.gov


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