Joplin man indicted for bank fraud scheme; targeted tornado victim

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A Joplin, Mo., man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a bank fraud scheme that targeted a woman whose home was destroyed by the May 22 tornado, according to an announcement from Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Teddy Lane Lawson, 51, of Joplin, was charged in a 20-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Aug. 24, 2011. The indictment was unsealed and made public Wednesday upon Lawson's arrest and initial court appearance.

According to the federal indictment, Lawson received permission in June 2011 to enter the property of a woman whose home had been destroyed in the tornado, who is identified as "L.L.," in order to remove scrap metal. While he was on the property, the indictment says, Lawson took a checkbook belonging to L.L., which contained blank checks.

The indictment alleges that, between July 5 and 9, Lawson used checks from the stolen checkbook to purchase merchandise from stores in Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. Lawson allegedly signed L.L.'s name to 20 checks totaling $2,960.

Lawson is charged with 10 counts of bank fraud and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft.

Under federal statutes, each count of bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison without parole. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory sentence of two years in federal prison without parole, which must run consecutive to all other counts of conviction, except for other counts of aggravated identity theft.

Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Joplin Police Department.

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