ELKINS, W.Va. — Embattled Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins resigned Thursday after pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge.

U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld said federal prosecutors possessed overwhelming evidence that Hawkins faked a traffic accident last April in order to collect more than $8,000 from Nationwide Insurance. His resignation was part of a plea deal he entered with prosecutors.


John Hawkins resigned his position as Barbour County sheriff Thursday evening.

Ihlenfeld said Hawkins sought insurance money by wrecking his wife’s SUV into a tree on a farm that he leased, but then telling the insurance company the wreck happened on a county road. Hawkins had an accident report from one of his deputies to prove it. Ihlenfeld said another deputy had suspicions and reported the accident to the State Police who, along with the state Insurance Commission and federal authorities, uncovered the fraud.

Ihlenfeld said the electronic data recorder was eventually pulled from the SUV.

“Investigators had an accident reconstructionist look at the results of the data that was pulled from that recorder and realized the story the former sheriff had given was not true,” Ihlenfeld said.

Hawkins also used his sheriff’s department letterhead and email account in his correspondence with Nationwide.

“He used his title, he used one of his deputies and completely took advantage of the system and abused the public trust,” Ihlenfeld said.

Prosecutors discussed other allegations against Hawkins—theft from the sheriff’s tax office, the mishandling of an estate and allegations of civil rights violations— during Thursday’s federal court hearing in Elkins. Yet Ihlenfeld said he decided not to pursue those charges “because we wanted to get him out of office and we wanted him to be held accountable—and he has been held accountable via this fraud conviction today”

Facing up to 20 years in prison, Hawkins is free on bond and will be sentenced later this year, Ihlenfeld said.

Hawkins pleaded guilty to a federal information, which usually indicates a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. Ihlenfeld said the overwhelming evidence against the former sheriff left him with little choice.

“We advised him and his attorney if they didn’t accept the offer we were going to pursue not only this charge but other charges, and that caused him to quickly sign the agreement,” Ihlenfeld said.

As part of his plea, Hawkins must make full restitution to Nationwide.

Ihlenfeld said the investigation continues against the deputy who was involved in the fake accident.

Following months of complaints from residents about Hawkins, the prosecutor said Barbour County is better off after the sheriff’s resignation.

“I think it’s a good day for the people of Barbour County that this person is no longer the sheriff,” Ihlenfeld said.

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  • Juwayne

    I wonder why it matters where the "accident" happened. If he had Collision insurance, why would it matter?

  • Cil. Klink

    The state needs to pick the cases the Feds dropped for this deal, especially with his invovlment with estates, I hear there was alot of cattle and equipment come up missing from one estate, also the County Commission should step down for they have allowed this to go on. NOW! is the time for people to contact and demand that the state picks this investigation up, maybe the PA needs to go to.....

  • J

    What really scares me here is the amount of data that can be retrieved from these vehicle data recorders.

  • Laura

    I just question how everything came out all at once. Doesn't it seem strange that it 's like a set up against him? Who ever wanted him out as a Sheriff really did a good job. Until you walk in the persons shoes, you will never know the truth. I really feel strongly that there is more to this then what is being told. Someone gained something from this in a bigger picture.

    • Jason412

      You're right, someone did gain something in the bigger picture, the people of Barbour County.

      I don't understand what you mean "came out all at once" this guy has been being accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls for at least 2 years. Besides that, that's usually how an investigation works they don't leak bits and pieces of information while an investigation is ongoing.

      I would say it's pretty clear he more then likely committed all the crimes of which he's accused, due to the fact they threatened to investigate the other charges and he immediately plead guilty to the fraud to prevent that.

  • Jason412

    I can't help but notice you've made 4 or 5 posts, not condeming this man for betraying public trust, stealing money, and possibly sexually assaulting 5 teenage girls but instead condemning the press for not pointing out his political affiliation. Clearly, your priorities are in the right place.

    In your opinion how should the headline read? "Barbour County Sheriff (D) (d) leftist socialist resigns after pleading guilty to insurance fraud"

    In this case, the fact this guy is a Democrat is about as irrelevant as the fact the US Attorney prosecuting him is a Democrat who was nominated to the position by Obama. Should the media also include that in the story?

    And no, I'm not a Democrat.

  • DWL

    He's a Democrat, (D), (d), liberal, socialist. Why is the press so afraid to indicate his political affiliation?

    • Jonus Grumby

      The way I see it he is first and foremost a crook. Why does party affiliation matter here?

      • DWL

        I do believe Jonus Grumby has a (d) on his voter registration card.

  • rick

    Too long in coming. He has been a bad apple for a long time before he became Sheriff. It just came out worse when he got some power.

  • Brian

    He didn't have a relative that held the same office in Mingo county did he?

  • Jason412

    Isn't this the same Sheriff being accused of sexual assault by 4 or 5 different young girls? Are those the civil rights violations dropped as part of this plea?

    I would hope they continue to pursue those charges as well. This guy probably deserves more then the 20.

    • Jason412

      Oh, I see in the "Related Articles" to the left the sexual assault accusations were being made in civil court, not criminal.

      At least he's off the streets. Hopefully he'll serve every day of the 20 years in a real prison, not the protective custody wing of some federal country club. And the Deputy should be right beside him.

  • Citizen

    Truly sorry that his family has to put up with such a sorry excuse. Lies cheats and steals. People still want to take up for him.

  • Citizen

    To getitright ,
    You have evidently had the wool pulled over your eyes, that or you live under a rock.

  • Puffery

    Lied about where an accident occurred? Ought to be shot, hung and burned at the stake!

    • Uncle Unctuous

      I don't think "accident" means what you think it means.

  • getitright

    Everyone makes mistakes, he is a good man.. Who jumped into a river to save a little boy? who set long hours along the river waiting for bodies to show up? who has protected our kids and community from drugs and such? HE HAS! Don't forget all the good, because of one mistake. Someones family is hurting tonight, think about more then just yourself.. no one is perfect!

    • Dave

      he never jumped in any river to save a little boy, he set long hours by the river molesting teen girls, a threat to the girls who entered the fair pageants as he always tried hooking up with them.... no, no is perfect, but these were not accidental incidents, they were cold and calculated , planned out deliberate events...there is a special circle of hell waiting for this man.

    • The bookman

      People do make mistakes, yes. But I think you make too many excuses for him, as he has a long list of improprieties behind this one. I do sympathize for his family, but he gets no sympathy from me. His character has been revealed by his own admission if guilt, and he should serve the full 20 years as a symbol of what should happen to those who trample on public trust.

  • Levelheaded

    When will I get a chance to vote for Ihenfeld for Governor?

  • WV Proud

    Tough to trust anyone wearing a badge anymore in WV. Bad for the good officers.