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Arson, Public Adjuster Pockets Over $1M in Insurance Proceeds

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Two Plead Guilty to Insurance Fraud by Arson

Two men pled guilty today in federal court for their respective roles in a scheme to commit insurance fraud by arson, announced United States Attorney Michael B. Stuart. Dudley Bledsoe, age 63, of Hanover, Wyoming County, and Ricky Dwayne Gleason, age 54, of Peach Creek, Logan County, both pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful monetary transactions before Senior District Court Judge David A. Faber in Bluefield. United States Attorney Mike Stuart commended the work of the United States Postal Inspection Service, the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

In the spring of 2012, Bledsoe, with the assistance of James Edward Lester, also known as “Punkin,” and others, purchased a house in Matoaka, Mercer County. The purchase price was approximately $38,000. They insured the property for over $300,000 and set fire to the house in December of 2012 using cardboard and unscented candle oil. Bledsoe, with the help of others, then filed false claims for the house and its contents. Bledsoe collected the proceeds and divided the proceeds with others involved in the scheme.

In May of 2013, Gleason purchased a house in his name on Norwood Road in Huntington, West Virginia for $100,000 and insured it for over $400,000. Funds for the purchase were provided by others involved in the scheme. The next month, Gleason and others staged the house to be burned using cardboard and unscented candle oil. While Gleason was out of town in order to concoct an alibi, others connected with the scheme set fire to the house. Gleason filed a claim for the loss of the house as well as false contents lists with the insurance company and collected over $280,000 in insurance proceeds. The proceeds were divided with others in the scheme.

Bledsoe and Gleason each face up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced on May 30, 2018. Windel Lester, James Edward Lester, also known as “Punkin,” Georgetta Kenney, Greg A. Lester and James Keith Browning are currently facing charges in a 40 count indictment for their respective roles in the scheme. Their trial is set for May 8, 2018, in Bluefield.

Source: Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of West Virginia

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