The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

April 2, 2013

Woman takes plea deal in tornado-fraud case

A Springfield woman accused of defrauding Joplin residents through offers to handle their insurance claims after the May 2011 tornado has taken a plea deal with the state attorney general’s office.

Gloria D. Schoeller, 57, entered an Alford plea Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court to a single felony count of deceptive business practice and two misdemeanor counts of acting as a public adjuster without a license.

The state filed charges about a year after the tornado accusing Schoeller and her husband, Jeffrey Wolfson, 65, of Osage Beach, of taking about $38,000 of insurance money from three property owners without delivering near that amount in home repairs.

Schoeller is identified in court records as the operator of Insurexx, a claims adjusting and home repair business based in Lebanon, Mo. Wolfson served as a paid consultant to the business, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Each has been facing three felony counts of deceptive business practice and three felony counts of theft in addition to misdemeanor counts of acting as a public adjuster without a license. Wolfson, who is being prosecuted as a prior and persistent offender, has a trial date set for October.

Schoeller paid $24,144.88 in restitution to the attorney general’s office on Monday as part of her plea bargain. Her deal with the state would limit the prison time that she might be assessed to no more than four years and would dismiss the other counts she is facing. The attorney general’s office also has agreed not to oppose the possibility that she receives a suspended imposition of sentence.

An Alford plea admits no guilt but acknowledges the likelihood of a conviction if the matter were to proceed to trial. Circuit Judge Gayle Crane delayed formal action on the plea deal and set Schoeller’s sentencing hearing for June 10.

Three Joplin homeowners testified at Wolfson’s preliminary hearing in November that they contracted with Insurexx for home repairs after the tornado.

Larry Black told the court that he paid the business more than $23,000 to begin repairs, but the only work completed was the replacement of his roof. Angela Viebrock said she and her husband paid the company more than $9,000 upfront to get started on $30,000 worth of repairs, but no work was ever done. Ron Galindo testified that he gave Insurexx $6,000 in insurance money but could not get any work done on his roof until he secured another contractor himself to remove a tree.

Husband’s record

GLORIA SCHOELLER’S HUSBAND, Jeffrey Wolfson, has previous convictions in a federal court for making a false and fraudulent statement to the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare and for three counts of bribing a public official. He also was convicted 12 years ago in St. Louis County Circuit Court on five counts of unlawful merchandising practices.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
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    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

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    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

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    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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