The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 3, 2013

Woman enters guilty plea in tornado fraud case

From staff reports

JOPLIN, Mo. — A 37-year-old Joplin woman pleaded guilty Thursday to making false claims related to the May 22, 2011, tornado in order to receive federal disaster benefits.

Pamela Ann Shafer pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Springfield to charges contained in a federal indictment issued on April 3 of last year.

Shafer admitted that she falsely claimed on an application for disaster benefits that her residence had been damaged by the tornado. According to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri, Shafer applied for temporary rental assistance and received a $938 payment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But she never resided at the address that she listed as having been her apartment at the time of the tornado, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The defendant could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

Shafer is the fifth defendant to plead guilty in cases related to fraudulent claims for federal benefits after the tornado. Wanda G. McBride, Ronald M. Irby, Karen M. Parks and Amber N. Peters pleaded guilty previously to similar charges.

McBride was assessed six months in prison and was ordered to pay $5,628 in restitution. Irby was sentenced to 15 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution totaling $5,628. Parks was given credit for time served in jail and was placed on supervised release, with a restitution order of $1,368. Peters has yet to be sentenced.