The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 14, 2014

Two Joplin men sentenced to two years for tornado fraud

Two Joplin men convicted on separate incidents of disaster fraud related to the May 22, 2011, tornado on Monday were sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution.

Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, was ordered to pay $2,750 in restitution and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, was ordered to pay $1,196 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes.

Brownlee on Aug. 5, 2013, pleaded guilty to making materially fraudulent statements and representations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency related to his application for disaster assistance on May 26, 2011. He claimed that his residence had been damaged by the tornado and received a payment of  $2,750. Brownlee admitted that the address he used in the FEMA application was not his address when at the time of the tornado. Brownlee had previously lived at the address he listed on the application, but had moved out before the tornado.

Williams pleaded guilty on March 8, 2013 to making materially fraudulent statements and representation to FEMA related to his application for disaster assistance. Williams admitted in his plea that when he filed for disaster relief on May 27, 2011, he listed a Joplin address as his primary residence and claimed that it had been damaged by the tornado. FEMA authorized a $1,196 payment to Williams, who admitted he was not living at the address he listed at the time of the tornado, but had moved out in February 2011.

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mohlhenrich. They were investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, FBI and Joplin police.

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