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THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT
By Susan E. Clarke
An investigation conducted by the Kentucky State Police, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Attorney General’s office in Nashville, Tennessee, recently resulted in nine Kentucky residents being indicted for mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud. Additionally, a $1.2 million settlement against Kemper National and General Star National Company was set aside and the plaintiff was ordered to repay the full amount with interest. The federal agencies are being assisted in the investigation and prosecution by Jim Garrett, a fraud investigator with Kemper National’s special investigations unit in Atlanta, Georgia. Garrett, a former U.S. Postal inspector, said, “Protecting Kemper National’s assets and those of our policyholders is one of our primary goals. This investigation is a good example of our efforts in that area.”
The case arose from a December 23, 1988, automobile accident in which a vehicle driven by Mark Bartley, a resident of Ashcamp, Kentucky, collided with a Coca Cola delivery van. Bartley, who was injured in the accident, sued Johnston Coca Cola Bottling Group Inc., alleging that its van driver had been at fault in the accident. The van driver, Eugene Howard, also injured in the accident, countersued Bartley.
Although police reports indicated that Bartley’s vehicle had crossed the center line, a witness testified at the subsequent trial in support of Bartley’s claim that Howard had caused the accident. The jury subsequently awarded Bartley $3.8 million and ordered him to split the award with Howard. On appeal, the award was reduced to $1.2 million.
After the case was settled, allegations arose that the trial had been rigged. Working on a tip from Billie Ward, Bartley’s sister, investigators discovered that Donald Epling, the witness who testified on Bartley’s behalf, had been paid to provide false testimony and that several jury members had been bribed to ensure that the verdict was returned in Bartley’s favor.
In late October, a hearing was held in front of Magoffin County. Kentucky. Circuit Judge John Robert Morgan. On the basis of the evidence presented, he concluded that the April 27 jury verdict “was rendered by reason of perjury or falsified evidence and/or fraud.” Morgan then overruled the jury verdict and ordered the money returned.
Those indicted by the federal grand jury and accused of participating in the scam were Bartley; his father, Eppie Bartley; former Magoffin County Sheriff Thomas R. “Skip” Salyer; Magoffin County Circuit Clerk Roger Gullett; jury members Debra Helton and Bobby Earl Arnett; former jailer and member of the April jury pool Colin Ray Jackson; Homer “Bill Dodd” May Jr., and Epling, the witness who testified for Bartley.
Judge Morgan’s decision is currently under appeal by Bartley and his attorneys. The settlement has already been paid and it is unknown how much of the $1.2 million can actually be recovered.
Kemper National is very active in the fight against insurance fraud. Its Fraud Busters program is a major part of Kemper’s arsenal.
For the last two years, Fraud Busters has provided a toll-free number for confidential reports of possible insurance fraud. The program also pays cash awards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who attempt to defraud Kemper or its policyholders.
© 1995 John Cooke Fraud Report