SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
John Williams, a former Joplin man, has pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a wire fraud conspiracy after the 2011 tornado.
Williams, 31, of Memphis, Tenn., pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush in Springfield to the charge contained in a June 11 federal indictment.
According to the plea agreement, Williams engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the Economic Security Corporation of Southwest Area in Joplin of money for a rental assistance program, the Missouri Housing Trust Fund Disaster Relief Program. The program disbursed funds to landlords who rented to clients who had been displaced by natural disasters, including the Joplin tornado.
Williams, who was not a landlord or property manager of ESC clients, conspired with others to submit fraudulent applications for rental assistance, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Tammy Dickinson, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Williams assisted in the scheme by serving as a purported landlord on two fraudulent applications for rental assistance, and also by accompanying other check recipients to banks to cash their checks, in order to collect the proceeds of the fraud.
The ESC issued two rental assistance checks to Williams totaling $3,050. The total financial loss from the wire fraud conspiracy totaled $8,565.
Under federal statutes, Williams is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in 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 pre-sentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
ANYONE WITH INFORMATION about disaster fraud related to the Joplin tornado may call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hot line at 866-720-5721, the Joplin Police Department at 417-623-3131, or the FBI's Joplin office at 417-206-5700.