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.

File

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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Comments

  • 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?

    • DWL

      .... but this democrat, leftist, liberal, socialist, (d) (D) practices the same game plan as the Mingo mOrOns.

  • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • DWL

    AGAIN I ask? Why do you not report the political party affiliation of these crooked & corrupt politicians? If he had been a Republican, it would have been in the headline. This low life is a DEMOCRAT, (D), (d), liberal, leftist, socialists, progressive POS no different than Cousin Earl Ray, the DC mOrOn, No Show Joe, Carpetbagger Jay, etc. Why is the press so afraid to label these leftist exactly what they are - DEMOCRATs, (D), (d), Liberals, Leftists, Socialists, Progressive POS.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • crazy nate

    This sounds just like the Lincoln county sheriff, that went to prison, these jackleg, con men just keep turning up in the sheriffs office. Look at all the dirt bags down in mingo county!! Even when these ra-TARDS are out on bond, they lie/steal/run dope......stop the year and a day sentence, and lay the fog down on these fools! They pull a five year plus sentence, the next po-po in charge will think twice!!

    • Tom

      "Crazy" seems to be an appropriate moniker for you, Nate.

  • curly joe

    What an incredible dumb ass. How do we continue to allow them to collect our hard - earned tax dollars as salary?????

  • OnlyaDropintheBucket

    Hope the WHOLE HOUSE OF CARDS crumbles.

  • Happy citizen

    Yes sir,it finally has. I'm sorry for the people that believed he was such a good person. Maybe the whole department will get an overhaul .

  • Dave

    at last , at last,, KARMA has come around