CHILLICOTHE, Mo. – Millions of $1,200 stimulus checks are now on their way to prisoners, as FOX 2 reported last week. Now we’re looking into how one attorney is trying to make sure some of the money goes to a murder victim.
Louis Gumpenberger, shot and killed by Pam Hupp in August 2016, left behind his son Trevelyan, who now lives with his grandmother, Margaret Burch. This summer, Burch won a $3 million wrongful death judgment against Pam Hupp.
After the judgment, it was widely believed Burch would not see a dime. So when FOX 2 reported on Pam Hupp’s recent court filing, in which she asked a judge to throw out her murder conviction, viewers reached out to us incredulous.
They were struck by a line on the last page of her handwritten motion. It appears to read: “…the only money I receive is $800 a month state pay.”
We found she missed a decimal. She only receives $8 a month, like every other inmate in Missouri. The state pays each prisoner about $8 monthly to spend in the prison commissary.
However, Hupp does appear eligible for the $1,200 COVID relief stimulus check, after a ruling won by San Francisco-based attorney Yaman Salahi.
“Although the state and federal government cannot deduct any debts other than overdue child support from these payments, there’s no protection in the law that Congress passed that we’re aware of against private creditors going after money,” Salahi said.
We spoke with Salahi via Zoom, who said every prisoner is eligible for that government check. For now, though, he said people like the Gumpenbergers have the ability to intercept it.
“I know there is some discussion in Congress about protecting future payments and, perhaps retroactively, these payments from creditors,” Salahi said. “Because the whole idea is that people need the money to get by in the present, given the economic crisis that’s been caused by the pandemic.”
Margaret Burch’s attorney, Gary Burger, said he’s already on it. He’s filing for garnishing of Pam Hupp’s prison trust account through the state of Missouri.
The deadline for inmates to apply for the stimulus was Oct. 31. Regulators in both Illinois and Missouri said they were informing prisoners of their ability to get the stimulus money and that social service groups were working with prisoners to ensure their applications were postmarked by the due date.