The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 16, 2012

Local courts dealing with tornado-fraud cases

Fraud related to Joplin’s tornado a year ago figured into both the prison sentence a Springfield man was assessed Wednesday in federal court and the charging of two contractors from Lebanon in Jasper County Circuit Court.

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr assessed Justin R. Compton, 31, of Springfield, five years and 11 months in a federal prison without parole for posing as a Joplin tornado victim while writing more than $160,000 worth of bad checks at more than 50 businesses in Southwest Missouri.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri said the sentence was the longest term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines applicable to Compton’s conviction for bank fraud.

The judge ordered that Compton’s sentence run consecutively to a two-year term that the defendant must complete for violating conditions of his supervised release on two previous fraud convictions. The judge also ordered that he pay $46,665 in restitution.

When Compton pleaded guilty to the charge Dec. 6, he acknowledged having opened a checking account at Regions Bank in Ozark two days before the tornado in Joplin on May 22, 2011, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He then began writing checks without having deposited any funds in the account.

The checks were written for goods and services at businesses in Greene, Jasper, Lawrence, Barry and Taney counties, with the defendant frequently persuading the businesses to take the checks by falsely representing himself as a tornado victim and an Army sergeant. The U.S. attorney’s office said that when the checks began being returned for insufficient funds, Compton again falsely represented his family as victims of the tornado to a bank official.

Compton also wrote bad checks on accounts opened at Higher One Bank, Armed Forces Bank and Academy Bank. The U.S. attorney’s office put the number of bad checks written on the four accounts by the defendant at 225 and the loss to the victims at $160,672.

In a separate and unrelated tornado-fraud matter, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed charges Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court against Jeffrey Wolfson and Gloria Diane Schoeller, the operators of Insurexx LLC, of Lebanon.

Wolfson and Schoeller are accused of defrauding three Joplin homeowners of about $38,000 through insurance claims adjusting and home repair services. The attorney general’s office said in a news release that the contractors accepted insurance checks from the homeowners without performing promised home repairs.

The state alleges that Wolfson and Schoeller falsely promised that homeowners would be reimbursed for payments they made to subcontractors and that the repair work would begin immediately. They also acted as insurance adjusters without being licensed by the Missouri Department of Insurance, the attorney general’s office said.

The contractors are charged with three counts of stealing by deceit, three counts of unlawful merchandising practices, three counts of insurance fraud and two counts of public adjusting without a license. Schoeller also has been charged in Laclede County with interference with a civil investigative demand.

The attorney general’s office said Wolfson will be prosecuted as an alleged prior and persistent offender, and could face up to 15 years in prison on each of the six most serious counts. Schoeller could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on each of her three most serious counts.



Storm chasers

THE MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE warns that unscrupulous contractors commonly referred to as “storm chasers” will often try to get victims of storm damage to sign a contract allowing them to negotiate with the victims’ insurance company for repair work. The contractors then perform shoddy work or no work at all.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    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

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    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

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    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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