DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky. (WEHT) – We have seen so much of the good in people in the wake of the December 10th tornado, but this weekend we got a glimpse of the bad. Countless families were left with the devastation of losing their homes, and now they have the added fear of strangers coming through and sifting through the debris.
People have traveled from all over the country to help victims who lost everything. But while there are those with good intentions, there are also those who see piles of debris as a gold mine. Jimmy Benton was arrested in Madisonville after he was caught stealing from demolished homes in the area. Five people in Graves County were spotted rummaging through personal property. Authorities say they were towing several damaged vehicles, and had stolen items belonging to tornado victims. Governor Andy Beshear spoke about some of the looters in his briefing.
“Kentucky State Police has received several complaints in reference to fraudulent disaster relief workers,” said Beshear.
Law enforcement is warning people that this is a serious offense.
“They can be charged with theft,” said Mike Opalek, Dawson Springs Chief of Police. “And if it’s over a certain amount, they can be charged with a felony. Once it gets to that point they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. And they could be looking at years in prison.”
Opalek says he is so grateful for those who have come to help in this time of need. But, officials say they are surprised by the audacity of these criminals.
“At the same time we have the lowest form of humanity trying to steal from people and trying to take advantage of a bad situation. I mean these people in my opinion are nothing but trash,” added Opalek.
“All they are, are miserable human beings that are trying to take from people who don’t have anything to take,” said Beshear.
Law enforcement said that the curfew has been lifted in Dawson Springs recently so the volunteers and workers can continue to work after dark to expedite the cleanup process.