The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

June 17, 2013

Former disaster relief worker, others indicted for fraud following Joplin tornado

A federal grand jury has indicted a former employee of the Economic Security Corp. in Joplin, her boyfriend and a third alleged conspirator in connection with the defrauding of the government via tornado relief funds.

A sealed, three-count indictment was returned June 11 in U.S. District Court in Springfield against Herlana L. Latham, 31, and Christopher L. Smith, 36, both of Memphis, Tenn., and John L. Williams, 30, of Cairo, Ill. The indictment was unsealed after the arrests of Smith and Williams on Friday.

The indictment alleges that the fraud took place between June 13 and July 31, 2012, when all three defendants were living in Joplin.

As an outreach worker for the Economic Security Corp. office in Joplin, Latham processed applications for rental assistance from the Missouri Housing Trust Fund’s disaster relief program. The ESC disbursed funds provided by the Missouri Housing Development Commission to landlords who rented to trust fund program clients who were displaced by the tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011.

Latham is accused of submitting applications for rental assistance under the program that resulted in payments to her two co-conspirators or others who were not landlords or property managers of ESC clients. The co-conspirators would then either cash the checks at one bank, or deposit them at another bank and later withdraw cash, the indictment alleges.

Williams, identified in the indictment as Latham’s boyfriend, allegedly assisted in the fraud by accompanying co-conspirators when they went to cash the checks, collecting the money they received and ensuring that Latham received the proceeds.

The indictment spells out five fraudulent transactions carried out in the two-month period. The checks involved ranged from $1,050 to $2,085, and totaled $8,565.

Latham worked at the ESC office in Joplin from December 2011 through August 2012, when she voluntarily quit. The alleged fraud was discovered internally after she left the office, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigated the case.


THE DEFENDANTS ARE CHARGED with a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Court records show that Christopher Smith was released on his own recognizance after his arrest. Herlana Latham and John Williams remain in federal custody.

Text Only
Crime & Courts
  • Tulsa man faces robbery charge

    A suspect in a shoplifting incident Monday at the Sears store in Northpark Mall in Joplin was charged with robbery after he and an accomplice reportedly resisted a store employee’s effort to detain them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Wrecks injure two on area roadways

    A Carthage man suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday on East 50th Street, a half-mile east of Joplin in Newton County, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

    July 22, 2014

  • Assault sends man to Joplin hospital

    Joplin police are investigating an apparent felony assault that sent a 20-year-old man to Freeman Hospital West with injuries to his head and shoulder.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin man to stand trial in accident case

    A passenger accused of causing an accident on Interstate 44 in Joplin that injured three others as well as himself was ordered bound over for trial Tuesday on three felony counts.

    July 22, 2014

  • Youth shot in shoulder after reportedly encountering burglars

    A male juvenile was treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder after a reported home invasion early Saturday in the 100 block of South 250th Street, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

    July 21, 2014

  • Webb City man placed on probation in assault case

    A rural Webb City man pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday in a child abuse case and received a suspended sentence with probation.

    July 21, 2014

  • Man enters plea to reduced charge in drug case

    A Joplin man charged with trafficking in crack cocaine pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of felony possession in a plea deal with the Jasper County prosecutor’s office.

    July 21, 2014

  • Joplin man pleads guilty to reduced charge in shooting incident

    A Joplin man accused of shooting at another man’s vehicle a year ago pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of unlawful possession of a firearm. William K. Richardson, 37, pleaded guilty during a hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court. He will be sentenced Sept. 22.

    July 21, 2014

  • Webb City woman draws probation for robbery at mall

    A 22-year-old Webb City woman who pleaded guilty to robbery in a shoplifting incident at the J.C. Penney store in Northpark Mall received a suspended sentence Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    July 21, 2014

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

Local News

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Bodies of Malaysia Jet Victims Leave Ukraine Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights