It is April in Oklahoma, and that means the severe weather season is upon us. Sure, spring means warmer weather and sunshine, but here in tornado alley, it also means the impending threat of disaster. In the Sooner State, spring cleaning includes sweeping the dead critters out of storm shelters. We get ready by going over our emergency plans, making sure our shelters are stocked, and tuning in to see if a local weather expert is wearing the bedazzled tie that indicates the threat of a significant storm.We also remember. We remember the deadly tornadoes that have swept across our state in recent years, claiming lives in Moore, in Piedmont, in El Reno, in Woodward, in Shawnee, and other towns across the state. We remember the destruction these tornadoes carved into our communities, and we remember the past and ongoing efforts to rebuild.Contrasting with the resiliency and support of most Oklahomans, however, we also remember those who have taken advantage of the devastation of others. Last year, a number of people were arrested for looting in Moore; many of them had traveled from other states to prey on tornado victims. Others were arrested in the weeks and months to come, after their attempts to defraud the federal government and disaster response services were unveiled.Last week, just in time for the start of tornado season, one such man was sentenced for his role in trying to claim undeserved benefits following the May 20 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.Blake Lynn Self was only 18 years old when he told FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that his primary residence, a home in the 900 block of S.W. 14th Street in Moore, was damaged by the tornado. Self received more than $12,000�in FEMA benefits to rebuild the home, but when the real homeowners came forward seeking benefits, Self's fraud was uncovered.He was indicted in November and pleaded guilty in January of this year to committing benefits fraud. Now 19, Self was sentenced early this month in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. He is ordered to serve 3 months in prison, followed by 60 days in a halfway house, followed by 90 days of home confinement--roughly 8 months of varying types of confinement. Upon the completion of his confinement, he must serve 5 years of supervised release. He is additionally ordered to pay�$12,885.45 in restitution to FEMA.In Oklahoma, we are fiercely protective of those who are affected by a tornado. We rally together, providing tools and supplies for emergency responders, helping homeowners sift through their belongings, and donating food, clothing, and cash to assist those who are stricken by a tornado. We band together to chase out of town those who would use such a tragedy as a platform for hate, and we prosecute those try to profit from a disaster.
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