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Phony 'victim' of Joplin tornado admits fraud

(UPI/Rick Meyer)
An American flag blows in the wind, attached to a downed limb, near a home that has been destroyed in Joplin, Missouri on May 23, 2011. A massive tornado hit the small southwestern Missouri town on May 22, 2011.

A southwestern Missouri man has admitted writing more than $160,000 in bad checks by claiming he and his family were victims of the Joplin tornado.

The U. S. Attorney's office says 31-year-old Justin R. Compton, of Springfield, pleaded guilty Tuesday to bank fraud.

Compton admitted opening an account at Regions Bank two days before the May 22 tornado. He deposited no money, however, instead telling the bank he would set up direct deposit of his paychecks.

For weeks after the tornado, he bought goods and services at dozens of businesses by writing hundreds checks on that account and others he set up at other banks, also without depositing money.

Compton admitted persuading businesses to accept the checks by claiming he was an Army sergeant and suffered losses in the tornado.

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