Tornado Looters, Scams Plague OK Victims

A trio of tornado looters have sparked mass outrage in the state, after police say the men — from states as far away as New York and Virginia — were discovered sifting through Oklahoma’s devastated ruins to salvage and sell valuable raw materials.

The suspected tornado looters were named and shamed in the press, and scrap metal wasn’t all victims of the massive storms say was taken in the aftermath of the devastating twisters.

Among items suspected to have been lifted by possible other tornado looters are a $50,000 watch, a $13,000 watch, a $2,000 fountain pen and a $1,300 hunting camera.

However, the only tornado looters arrested were three men from out of state who are said to have attempted to salvage scrap metal from the debris. Steven Corky Daniels, 36, was arrested June 2 after telling police he had traveled from Virginia to find valuable metal in the storm ravaged area, and companions Steve Costello, 44, and Justin Wagner, 25 were arrested along with him. Costello told police he resided in Queens, a borough of New York City.

While tornado looters were a large panic after the unprecedented twister ripped through the area and left chaos in its wake, opportunistic debris combers are not the only threat facing tornado victims.

As Oklahoma rebuilds, police say to be on the lookout for a far greater threat to residents — dishonest and greedy contractors seeing insurance green after the the twister.

According to Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak, homeowners need to be on the lookout for door to door salesman shilling much needed home repairs — an industry that often plagues the victims of disasters when the contractors take money but do either shoddy service or none at all.

Doak says that silver tongued scammers often prey on confused and displaced homeowners with high-pressure sales tactics and the promise of home improvements, but take the insurance money and run, leaving already strapped residents in a bind.

Last week a local news source reported:

“So far 32,000 insurance claims have been filed and $250 million advanced to customers by insurance companies since tornadoes began hitting the state on May 19. The Norman-Little Axe area was among affected communities, but the heaviest damage was in Moore — also a Cleveland County community — where an F-5 tornado tore through 14 city miles on May 20.”

Doak added that in addition to tornado looter, “[unfortunately,] those [insurance] dollars are often the target of scams… many are honest and responsible, many are not.”