Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins pleaded guilty in U.S. Magistrate Court Thursday to mail fraud.
According to a press release from U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II, Hawkins entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging him with mail fraud. Hawkins admitted to staging an automobile accident in April of 2013 and then, with the assistance of one if his deputies, fabricating a report for submission to Nationwide Insurance Co. so that his claim would be approved. Hawkins asserted that while driving his 2004 GMC Envoy he accidentally drive off Jerusalem Church Road in Philippi and ran into a tree. However, a review of the claim file revealed inconsistencies in Hawkins' story. Photographs taken by the insurance adjuster and information from the vehicle's data recorder contradicted Hawkins' version of events. Witnesses familiar with the scheme advised investigators that the story provided by Hawkins was false.
The press release continued, Hawkins used the U.S. mail to make a fraudulent insurance claim in the amount of $8,262.65, which was paid to him by Nationwide Insurance last year. Hawkins also used his official Barbour County email account to communicate with Nationwide regarding the false claim. Hawkins said, though, he did not recollect using his county email address, though.
As a condition of the guilty plea, Hawkins must resign his post as sheriff.
See a complete report in Friday's edition of The Inter-Mountain.