Alleged tornado-fund scammers charged

By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal

The April 27 tornado that destroyed a swath of Northeast Mississippi caused pain and suffering for most – but an opportunity to scam the system for others.

Two men were indicted by a federal grand jury for lying to FEMA about where they lived to collect tornado-relief funds.

Ronnie G. Beard, 46, of Okolona, and James W. Pulliam, 62, of Mansfield, Texas, each face up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines for the offenses, which took place in May.

Beard told FEMA he lived 586 County Road 157 in Okolona to get more than $1,000 in disaster funds. Pullium said he lived at 1588 County Road 406 in Houston to get more than $1,000 in funds.

A third man, Richard Ungren, 38, of Olive Branch, also was charged for the same crimes relating to a similar scam after the Mississippi River flood in Tunica.

“The charges against these three defendants serve as an example of our commitment to investigating FEMA fraud allegations and pursuing federal prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” said James E. Ward, Special Agent in Charge for the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, in a press release.

Ward said the agencies involved place “a high priority on the investigation of these types of crimes, which negatively impact our federal system and programs that are intended for law abiding citizens.”