Tornado lie lands Oklahoma woman in prison for six months

An Oklahoma City judge sentenced a felon to six more months in prison for lying about a tornado destroying her parents' house.
by Nolan Clay Published: July 25, 2013
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After tornadoes struck Oklahoma in May, felon Misti Dawn Miller came up with a clever lie in a bid to delay going back to federal prison.

She told a judge in a legal motion that a tornado May 19 destroyed her parents' home in Newalla. She said she needed time to help them find a new place. She even emailed a picture of a damaged house to her defense attorney as part of her deception.

That lie earned her six more months in federal prison Thursday, on top of the three months she already is serving.

“You've shown again that in your world, in your mind, the ends always justify the means,” U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti said at a hearing in Oklahoma City federal court.

The judge chose the punishment for Miller after she admitted to the deception that put her in contempt of court.

“There's no excuse for it,” Miller said. “I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Miller first went to federal prison in 2010 for five months for stealing money from her great-uncle's business, Milestone Construction Co. She was ordered to pay $105,088 in restitution in the forged check case.

This year, in April, the judge ordered her back to prison for three months for a probation violation. She was given until May 28 to report to prison.

On May 22, her attorney asked the judge to give her three more weeks to report to prison.

The attorney explained she had arranged for her parents to care for her children while she was away and wanted to help them find a new place.

The judge agreed, pushing back her deadline to report to prison to June 18.

Her deception unraveled after the FBI got an anonymous tip.

An FBI agent traveled to Newalla on June 5 and found her parents' house had only minor, superficial damage.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Yancey called Miller's actions despicable. The prosecutor said she had exploited the tragedy for her own self interest.

He pointed out her deception was not a spur-of-the-moment idea because she took a picture of someone's home.

“It was very deliberate, very calculated, well-planned,” the prosecutor said.

Her new attorney, David Autry, told the judge Thursday that a tornado in 2010 had destroyed Miller's home and her two children then had to seek shelter at school.

The attorney said she had lied about her parents' home because she was frightened for her children. He said she wanted more time with the children to make sure they were going to be OK after tornadoes hit May 19 and 20.

Miller said, “I panicked.”

Miller also has faced bogus check charges in Woodward, Shawnee and Norman, but they were dismissed after she made restitution.

NewsOK.com has disabled the comments for this article.
by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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