The Oklahoma tornadoes that wreaked havoc and devastation in May have become fodder for criminal opportunists. Local and national media have covered the looting taking place in the hardest-hit areas, with thieves coming from across the country to pick from unsecured homes and businesses.
However, one Oklahoma woman saw the tornadoes as advantageous in another way. Misti Dawn Miller, 34, was convicted in federal court on multiple felony counts of obtaining cash and/or merchandise by bogus check.
She was scheduled to report to prison on May 28. She was also charged with bogus check writing in Norman, Shawnee, and Woodward, but those cases were dismissed when Miller paid restitution. On May 19, a tornado ripped through Newalla, and Miller saw an opportunity.
Miller's parents live in Newalla, and she emailed her attorney a picture of a destroyed home, saying that it was her parents' home. Because she had arranged for her parents to care for her children while she was in prison, and because their home was destroyed, she asked a judge to delay her sentence while she helped her parents find a new place to live. The judge agreed, pushing her start date back until June 18.
The problem with Miller's story is that her parents' Newalla home only sustained superficial damage, and was not, as she claimed, a total loss. The FBI became aware of Miller's deception after an anonymous letter was sent to the Bureau and local media outlets. Upon investigation, the FBI determined that Miller had lied about the damage to her parents' home.
Her Story Was A Fraud
Because she purposely deceived a federal judge, the district attorney, and even her own defense lawyer, Miller may be charged with contempt of court, an offense which could tack an additional six months onto her sentence. Miller has been previously convicted of embezzlement in 2010 after pleading guilty to a forged check charge. She was sentenced to five months in prison followed by five months of house arrest.
While her prior conviction is not surprising, given her pattern of writing bogus checks, what is surprising is that this is not the first time she has attempted to use a tornado as a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. In May 2010, she asked a judge for early release, saying her Norman home was destroyed by a tornado. White collar crimes, including bogus check writing (which is considered fraud), may be resolved without jailor prison in some cases, especially when the defendant takes a proactive approach in paying restitution prior to conviction.
Fraud Defense Strategies
To find out the best defense strategies for a specific case, consult a white collar crimes lawyer for a free case evaluation.