Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins has pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in Elkins Federal Court and has resigned from his position as chief law enforcement officer in Barbour County.
U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, said Hawkins, 47, entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging him with mail fraud. Hawkins admitted to staging a car accident in April 2013 and then, with the assistance of one of his deputies, fabricated a report for submission to Nationwide Insurance so that his claim would be approved. Hawkins asserted that while driving his 2004 GMC Envoy, he accidentally drove off Jerusalem Church Road in Philippi and ran into a tree. A review of the claim filed revealed inconsistencies in Hawkins story. Photographs taken by the insurance adjuster contradicted Hawkins' version of events. Hawkins used the United States Mail to make a fraudulent claim in the amount of $8,262.65 which was paid to him by Nationwide in 2013.
Hawkins used his official Barbour County email account to communicate with Nationwide regarding his false claim. As part of the plea agreement, he is to resign as the sheriff of Barbour County, to relinquish his West Virginia Law Enforcement certification, and to agree to never serve as a law enforcement officer. Hawkins is required to pay full restitution for the fraudulent claim to Nationwide Insurance.
The U.S. Attorney's office has agreed not to pursue further investigations into Hawkins' conduct, including his alleged mishandling of an estate in his official capacity as sheriff, allegations of missing funds from the sheriff's tax office, and potential civil rights violations. The investigation into other people who have been involved in the scheme is ongoing, said U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld.
Hawkins faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced. Hawkins' sentencing date has not been set. U.S. Magistrate John S. Kaull presided over the plea hearing.
Hawkins was recently named in two other lawsuits, one was filed in federal court by a Barbour County woman, Brittany Keene, who accused Hawkins of unlawful arrest, excessive force, civil conspiracy, and sexual assault. The other suit, filed by Belington private investigator Franklin Streets, accused Hawkins of defamation and outrage in connection to Keene's lawsuit.
Plans to fill Hawkins' position as Barbour County Sheriff weren't immediately available to 12 News from Barbour County officials.