Whirlwind of Fraud

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11931923 - house of the money in his hand on the background of a new home

Fraud is like a whirlwind. Once a criminal is successful at collecting money or benefits they don’t deserve, they often get caught up in the ruse and greediness causes the deception to continue through additional schemes. (If it worked once, why not try it again?)KOAMTV.com tells about a Missouri woman who falsely claimed disaster benefits following a devastating tornado and then later used stolen identity information to go on a shopping spree.

The story states that the woman claimed her Joplin apartment had been struck by a tornado – the same one that killed 158 people and caused more than $2.9 billion in damage on May 22, 2011. While meeting with a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) inspector, she stated that her apartment had been damaged by the twister, and she had lost furniture and appliances as a result. (She received more than $6,700 in disaster relief and lived in a FEMA-provided mobile home for more than a year, costing taxpayers $12,066.)

In reality, the woman and her boyfriend did live in the apartment; however, their time of residence was prior to the tornado. (They moved out before the twister struck.)

Approximately two years following the bogus claim, the woman stole a co-worker’s wallet containing a driver’s license, Social Security card, debit card and credit cards. She used the stolen documents to impersonate the victim and others. (She used counterfeit checks to buy a video game console and cashed three counterfeit payroll checks worth nearly $1,800.)

The 24-year-old woman’s shopping spree didn’t last long. She was sentenced to two years and four months in federal prison without parole. She also was ordered to pay nearly $19,000 in restitution to FEMA plus $2,094 to her multiple identity theft victims. In a separate, but related case, her boyfriend was sentenced for making false statements to FEMA in order to also obtain disaster benefits.

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind when things are going good. (This woman got cash and a place to live as a result of her lies.) The reality of the situation is that whirlwinds always leave a path of destruction once they die down. In this case, this young woman will have to deal with the devastating effects of her prison sentence and the impact it will have on her in the future.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Joplin Woman Sentenced for Disaster Fraud Related to Tornado Benefits,” posted by KOAMTV.com on March 11, 2015.

SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI -Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., woman was sentenced in federal court today for aggravated identity theft and to fraudulently receiving federal disaster benefits following the tornado that struck the city of Joplin on May 22, 2011, killing 158 people and causing more than $2.9 billion in damage.

Brittany Aulden Barnes, 24, of Joplin, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to two years and four months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Barnes to pay $18,774 in restitution to FEMA and $2,094 in restitution to her identity theft victims.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.