For Immediate Release
Grady County Residents Sentenced for Burning Houses for Insurance
Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, G.F. Peterman, III, today announced the sentencing on March 24, 2016 of two individuals in an insurance fraud scheme. The sentences were handed by Senior District Court Judge W. Louis Sands in federal court in Albany, Georgia.
Elbert Walker, Jr. a/k/a “Shula”, aged 67, of Cairo, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 121 months in Federal prison for conspiracy to commit arson and mail, wire, bank and bankruptcy fraud and false declarations to a court as well as several firearms offenses and Shirley Burk, aged 48, of Cairo, Georgia, was sentenced to 60 months for conspiracy to commit arson, mail fraud and false declarations to a court.
The two defendants, along with Darryl Burk, were convicted in November 2015 of the charges following a three and a half week jury trial. Evidence presented at trial showed that between 1996 and 2006, Elbert Walker, Jr. was the owner and operator of Southside Grocery in Camilla, Georgia; Northside Home Remodeling in Cairo and Moultrie, Georgia; J and J Hauling, Roofing and Construction in Cairo, Georgia; North Broad Mini Market in Thomasville, Georgia; Rainbow Club located in Pelham, Georgia; Chickasaw Club in Cairo, Georgia; and Zock Rock Publishing and Promotions, Inc. located in Cairo, Georgia. Co-defendants Darryl Burk and Shirley Denise Burk were residents of Grady County, Georgia and relatives of Elbert Walker, Jr. Darryl Burk will be sentenced on May 19, 2016.
The three defendants conspired to destroy residential dwellings in the Grady, Mitchell, Thomas and Colquitt County areas by intentionally setting fire to them. They then defrauded insurance providers by falsely claiming that proceeds of insurance policies should be paid to them. In addition, the trio defrauded lending institutions in order to obtain financing for residential mortgage loans for the properties and presented counterfeit and forged checks associated with the proceeds of said insurance policies. Finally, Mr. Walker and Mrs. Burk defrauded the United States Bankruptcy Court and United States District Court.
The properties involved in the conspiracy were located at 1097 Bondvilla Drive in Cairo, Georgia; 410 Oak Street in Thomasville, Georgia; 555 Baggs Ferry Road in Camilla, Georgia; 605 S. Harney Street in Camilla, Georgia; and 608 Oak Circle in Moultrie, Georgia.
Evidence presented also showed that Mr. Walker was previously convicted of Welfare Fraud Conspiracy in New Jersey. In 2007 and 2011, agents executed search warrants at his residence in Cairo, Georgia and located multiple firearms in his possession. Some of these firearms also had obliterated serial numbers.
Acting U.S. Attorney Peterman said, “The criminal activities for which these defendants were sentenced today have been ongoing for years. Time and again they swindled banks and insurance companies and perpetrated frauds on our courts. They put the lives of firefighters in jeopardy through their numerous arsons for profit. As the leader of this gang, Elbert Walker, Jr. was a virtual one man crime wave in South Georgia. He is the very person at whom are aimed our laws banning the possession of firearms by felons. I commend the federal, state and local law enforcement authorities who investigated this case for their excellent work in bringing these defendants to justice, as well as the prosecutors whose dedication and hard work resulted in these convictions.”
“Today’s sentence is another reminder that ATF and our law enforcement partners will hold individuals accountable for any criminal behavior, especially that which threatens the safety of innocent civilians,” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Schmidt.
"The co-conspirators in this fraud ring went to great lengths to carry out their illegal schemes, which included arson and fraudulent insurance claims," said Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. "I would like to commend local, state and federal investigators and Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen, for their work in dismantling this major arson and insurance fraud ring."
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; United States Secret Service, Georgia State Fire Marshal’s Office, Grady County Sheriff’s Office, Pelham Police Department, and Moultrie Fire Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Foster prosecuted the case for the Government.
Questions concerning this case should be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603.