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Press Release

Joplin Woman Pleads Guilty To Making False Statements To Receive Tornado Benefits

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

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to making false statements in order to obtain federal disaster benefits following the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Pamala Ann Shafer, 37, of Joplin, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to the charges contained in an April 3, 2012 federal indictment.

Shafer admitted that she applied for federal disaster benefits by falsely claiming that her residence had been damaged by the tornado.  Shafer also filed an application for temporary rental assistance. On the basis of Shafer’s representations, FEMA authorized a $938 payment. Shafer admitted today she did not reside at that address at the time of the tornado. Rather, the apartment had been owned by another individual, who did not know Shafer.

Shafer is the fifth defendant to plead guilty in cases related to fraudulently receiving federal disaster benefits following the tornado. In separate and unrelated cases, Wanda Gail McBride, Ronald Martell Irby and Karen Marie Parks, all of Joplin, pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. Amber Nicole Peters of Joplin pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

Under federal statutes, Shafer is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

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.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations-Office of Inspector General, and the Joplin, Mo., Police Department.
Updated January 7, 2015