The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 21, 2013

Joplin man sent to prison for post-tornado fraud

By Jeff Lehr

JOPLIN, Mo. — A federal judge assessed a Joplin man three years and two months in prison Thursday for stealing a checkbook from a tornado victim and writing 20 checks on her bank account.

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr sentenced Teddy L. Lawson, 53, to the term without parole at a hearing in federal court in Springfield. The judge also ordered that Lawson pay $2,960 in restitution to the woman’s bank, the former First State Bank in Joplin.

Lawson pleaded guilty April 18 to 10 counts of bank fraud and a single count of aggravated identity theft in a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri that resulted in his prison term.

The defendant had been facing 10 counts of bank fraud and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft from an indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in August 2011.

The U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release that Lawson received permission in June 2011 to retrieve scrap metal from the property of a Joplin woman identified in court records only as “L.L.” The woman’s home was destroyed in the May 22, 2011, tornado that ravaged a third of the city and neighboring Duquesne.

Lawson stole a checkbook belonging to the woman that he found while on her property. Between July 5 and July 9, 2011, he wrote 20 checks on her account in Joplin, Springfield and Webb City, signing her name or a similar name to each of them. In so doing, he defrauded the bank of $2,960, the U.S. attorney’s office said.