Public Safety

Former Olin woman sentenced to 12 years in insurance fraud scheme

CEDAR RAPIDS — A woman, formerly of Olin, was sentenced last week in federal court to 12 years in prison and must pay over $152,000 in restitution for her part in an insurance scheme, which also involved a former Jones County Sheriff’s deputy setting fire to his vacant house in 2013.  

Beth Galloway, 42, of Camanche, was convicted by a jury last year, after deliberating two hours, on one count each of mail fraud, using fire to commit mail fraud, and money laundering.

Evidence at trial showed Galloway and James Plower planned and participated in a scheme to defraud Plower’s insurance company between the Spring of 2013 and Spring 2014.

Galloway, as part of the scheme, drove a 16-year-old to Plower’s vacant home in Martelle to set a fire but both attempts failed, according to evidence. Plower then deliberately set fire to the Martelle home and submitted an insurance claim in which he falsely claimed the fire was accidental.

As a result of the false claim, the insurance company mailed Plower a check for $66,497, court documents show.Evidence also showed that Galloway and Plower agreed to conceal or launder the insurance proceeds in February and March of 2014, after learning that law enforcement was investigating the cause of the blaze.

Galloway and Plower took $10,000 of the proceeds from Plower’s bank account and gave it to Galloway’s friend, an Olin city clerk, who told investigators the couple told her they didn’t want authorities to seize it, according to court documents. At some point, Galloway also told the clerk that Plower set the fire.

Plower, also a former volunteer firefighter, previously pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and use of fire to commit mail fraud. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Plower also was ordered to pay more than $152,000 in restitution to the insurance company. He resigned from the sheriff’s department in March 2014, after the investigation started.

The indictment shows Plower planned to burn down the house because he couldn’t afford the needed repairs and wanted to rebuild on the foundation. He moved into Galloway’s Olin residence and started the plan.  

A criminal complaint in Plower’s case shows Plower insured the Martelle house for unintentional damage and loss as a result of fire after he moved out.

Court documents show Plower’s ex-wife told a fire marshal in 2014 that he made statements to her about burning down the property while they were married. They divorced in 2002, according to documents.

Galloway also faced a second-degree arson charge in Jones County District Court for the house fire but that charge was dropped last October because she was being prosecuted in federal court.

U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand sentenced Galloway to 144 months in prison and she was ordered to pay $152,875 in restitution to the insurance company. 

Galloway will self-surrender to a prison determined by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  

The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys Ravi Narayan and Tony Morfitt.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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