Woman guilty of tornado damage fraud

Posted January 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin woman pleaded guilty in federal court 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.

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 Police Department.