The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

October 24, 2012

Joplin woman pleads guilty to federal disaster-aid fraud

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to fraudulently receiving federal disaster benefits after the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Amber Nicole Peters, 22, pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England in Springfield to disaster fraud, according to a statement released by David M. Ketchmark, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Peters admitted that she applied for federal disaster benefits by falsely claiming that her home and property had been damaged or destroyed in the tornado. In reality, Peters met an inspector from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the tornado-damaged home belonging to her recently deceased grandmother, and falsely claimed it was her primary residence.

FEMA authorized payment in the amount of $3,596, of which $2,658 was for loss of personal property and $938 was for rental assistance. Peters was paid by an electronic funds transfer on June 7, 2011.

As a result of Peters’ false claim, FEMA initially denied the legitimate claim later filed by her aunt, who lived at the home with Peters’ grandmother.

Under federal statutes, Peters is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of 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.

Hot line

ANYONE WITH INFORMATION about disaster fraud related to the Joplin tornado, authorities say, 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.

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