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Press Release

Joplin Man Pleads Guilty to Disaster Fraud Related to Tornado Benefits

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to fraudulently receiving federal disaster benefits following the May 22, 2011 tornado.

Leslie Lynn Williams, 53, of Joplin, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Richard E. Dorr to the charges contained in a Dec. 13, 2012 federal indictment.

Williams admitted that he filed for disaster relief on May 27, 2011. Williams 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 today, however, that he was not living at that address at the time of the tornado, but had moved out in February 2011.

Under federal statutes, Williams is subject to a sentence of up to 30 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 FBI, Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General, 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.

Updated January 9, 2015