Ex-agency employee pleads guilty in tornado fraud

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) – A former Joplin woman has pleaded guilty to her role in defrauding a relief fund set up to help victims of the May 2011 tornado that devastated the city.

Thirty-two-year-old Herlana L. Latham, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

She was an employee of the Economic Security Corp. in Joplin, which administered a relief fund meant for landlords who rented to people displaced by the tornado.

Prosecutors say Latham and two men stole $8,565 from the program. Her co-defendants, Christopher L. Smith and John L. Williams, also of Memphis, previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

The Joplin Globe reports (http://bit.ly/1enUVX0 ) Latham submitted applications for rental assistance that indicated Smith and Williams were landlords or property managers when they were not.