The FBI is seeking to block the payment of $5 million in life insurance taken out by Irish travellers on a woman murdered in Texas in 2014.
The bureau claims that the murder was carried out by a father and son, who allegedly stood to gain $1 million from the death of Anita Fox, a 69-year-old cleaner..
The father, Gerard “Big Joe” Gorman, died of natural causes before he could be arrested. His son, Bernard “Little Joe” Gorman, has been charged with Ms Fox’s murder and is currently on bail awaiting trial. His lawyer said he has denied any wrongdoing and that Ms Fox agreed to the insurance policy.
The bureau has lodged documents in federal court in South Carolina to seize the insurance money, as well as $4 million extra in life insurance taken out on Ms Fox.
Ms Fox was stabbed to death while cleaning a house in Colleyville, Texas in 2014. She was of very limited income, despite some life insurance policies claiming she made $300,000 running a trailer park, the FBI said.
The attempt to seize the cash through the Texas courts follows a major investigation into Irish traveller scams based in Murphy Village, South Carolina, which is America’s largest Irish traveller town. It was featured in a TV3 documentary, Travellers in America: A Secret Society,about traveller life in America.
The FBI arrested 20 Irish travellers in Murphy Village in August on an alleged 45-count fraud and racketeering indictment, much of it based on life insurance scams. Although their families have lived in the US for several generations, Murphy Village residents keep close to Irish traditions. Many of those indicted lived in streets named after Irish counties.
According to the Texas court documents, supplied to The Times, the South Carolina investigation led to an insurance broker in the state who dealt almost exclusively with Irish travellers.
A review of his documents led the FBI to the insurance claims taken out on Ms Fox in the years before her death, allegedly including false claims about her earnings.
Five policies, totaling $5 million, listed Ms Fox’s son-in-law, Mark Buckland, and her daughter, Virginia Buckland, as beneficiaries. All five policies were taken out in 2007 and 2008 by the Bucklands.
According to the FBI, Mark Buckland was unable to make the monthly payments on all five life insurance policies and sold one of them to the Gormans, in exchange for $2,800 a month.
None of Ms Fox’s family are suspects in her killing but the Bucklands are suspected of insurance fraud, according to the FBI.
Last Friday, the FBI filed an application to block the $5 million proceeds from the five policies, saying that it was all based on fraud and false representations about Ms Fox’s earnings and net worth.
Ronald Grosse, an FBI special agent, wrote in an affidavit to Judge Paige Gossett in federal district court in South Carolina that all people in the case were members of a group “commonly known as the Irish travellers” and that the FBI investigation into life insurance fraud in Murphy Village has been continuing since July, 2014.
“Travellers have been known to be involved in life insurance scams in the past. These scams typically involve lying on the policy applications about income, net worth, health, identifying information, and whether other policies have been issued,” he wrote.
He was seeking permission to block the cash from the five insurance policies, which are held in Texas. A copy of Agent Grosse’s affidavit, filed on November 29, were transferred to a court in Tarrant County, Texas on December 2.
The Texas court is now awaiting a response from lawyers representing Bernard Gorman and the Bucklands.
Colleyville police have said Gerard Gorman and three other relatives all paid a portion of the policy’s premiums with plans to eventually split the proceeds. The police claim in separate court documents that Gerard and Bernard Gorman killed Ms Fox to claim on her life insurance policy.