Joplin Man Pleads Guilty to Disaster Fraud Related to Tornado Benefits
SPRINGFIELD, MO—Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Joplin, Missouri man pleaded guilty in federal court today for fraudulently receiving (or applying for) federal disaster benefits following the tornado that struck the city of Joplin on May 22, 2011, killing 158 people and causing more than $2.9 billion in damage.
Dustin Joe Showalter, 36, of Joplin, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to the charge contained in a February 25, 2014 federal indictment.
By pleading guilty today, Showalter admitted that he committed disaster fraud by making false statements to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in an application for disaster benefits.
Showalter fraudulently received disaster benefits by claiming to have lived at a residence in Joplin at the time of the May 22, 2011 tornado, when in fact he did not live at that residence. On the basis of his application to FEMA, Showalter received $938 to which he was not entitled.
Under federal statutes, Showalter is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Joplin, Missouri Police Department.
Disaster Fraud Hotline
Anyone with information about disaster fraud related to the Joplin tornado should call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721, the Joplin Police Department at 417-623-3131, or the FBI’s Joplin Resident Agency at 417-206-5700.