ELKINS, W.Va. — The FBI already had been investigating claims against Barbour Sheriff John Hawkins for almost a year when a separate allegation turned up.
One of Hawkins’ deputies had heard that his boss might have faked being involved in a wreck to collect insurance money. The deputy came forward to State Police in Philippi, who handed off the matter to Brad Dumire, a West Virginia Insurance Commission fraud investigator.
Dumire then involved FBI Special Agent Fred Aldridge. Aldridge, Dumire and a state trooper who works for a special unit (often undercover) investigated further. That led to the sheriff’s felony conviction and ouster from office Thursday.
Hawkins, 47, of Philippi, resigned from office after pleading guilty before U.S. Magistrate John S. Kaull to felony mail fraud. Hawkins also agreed not to work as a lawman again, permanently forfeited his right to possess firearms and, at least for now, may have lost his right to vote and be elected to office.
In return for Hawkins entering the plea, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II offered a couple concessions.
Ihlenfeld, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parr and the Northern District’s Public Corruption Unit agreed not to push forward on an investigation into alleged civil rights violations.
Additionally, the federal government also closed another investigation of Hawkins. It featured an allegation that Hawkins was involved in $200 coming up missing from the sheriff’s tax collection division, Ihlenfeld said.
And the federal government agreed not to pursue charges on an allegation that Hawkins, serving as executor of an estate, mishandled assets to benefit himself, Ihlenfeld said. “In the end, I believe the victims were made whole,” the U.S. attorney added about the estate matter.
‘Fortunately, he came forward’
Ihlenfeld praised the deputy who brought the matter to State Police, though he declined to identify the law enforcement officer.
“That got the ball rolling,” Ihlenfeld said. “Fortunately, he came forward. He didn’t sit on the information. Instead, he got it into the hands of another agency.”
The staged wreck was alleged to have occurred early last April in a rural area near a farm that Hawkins and another deputy were leasing to graze cattle.
By mid-month, Hawkins had received an insurance check from Nationwide Insurance for more than $8,100…