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Nixa contractor pleads guilty to stealing $73,000 from elderly tornado victims

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE U.S> ATTORNEY WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI

NIXA CONTRACTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING $73,000 FROM ELDERLY TORNADO VICTIMS

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Nixa, Mo., contractor who was hired to repair tornado damage at the Joplin residence of an elderly couple pleaded guilty in federal court today to a fraud scheme in which he stole more than $73,000.

Terry Alton Parker, 58, of Nixa, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

Parker operated Alliance Contracting of Nixa, LLC, and was hired by a Joplin, Mo., resident to repair his house following the May 22, 2011, tornado. The victim, identified as "H.B." in the federal indictment, was 84 years old at the time; he was caring for his 88-year-old wife, who required home care and nursing assistance.

After being hired, Parker was at H.B.'s home on a regular basis from June 2011 through February 2012. Parker befriended H.B. and soon began using his downstairs office area as his own office.

In November 2011, without H.B.'s knowledge or permission, Parker took a check from H.B.'s checkbook and wrote a check to himself for $38,640. Parker forged H.B.'s signature and deposited the check into his own bank account.

Parker persuaded H.B., who did not own a computer, to get Internet access at his home so Parker could order supplies online and conduct other business via the Internet. H.B. agreed to pay for the service. Parker set up an online banking account for H.B.'s checking account, without H.B.'s knowledge or permission, and directed all bank statements and other notifications from the bank to be delivered to an e-mail address that Parker set up in H.B.'s name (also without his knowledge). Parker established a PayPal account, without H.B.'s knowledge or permission, which was linked to H.B.'s checking account.

Parker initiated five wire transfers totaling $34,420 from H.B.'s checking account into the PayPal account from Dec. 31, 2011, to Feb. 22, 2012. Most of those funds ($32,545) were then transferred from H.B.'s PayPal account to Parker's own PayPal account.

Under federal statutes, Parker is subject to a sentence of up to 70 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1,750,000 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 FBI and the Joplin, Mo., Police Department.

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