Olin woman pleads not guilty to fraud, arson-related charges in federal court

Trial is set for Oct. 24

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The girlfriend of a former Jones County Sheriff’s deputy and volunteer firefighter pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court to participating in his arson plan that bilked an insurance company out of $152,000.

Beth Ann Galloway, 42, of Olin, was indicted last week on one count each of mail fraud, use of fire and aiding and abetting the use of fire to commit a felony and conspiracy to commit money laundering. She pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday in U.S. District Court.

She remains on release with conditions pending trial set for Oct. 24.

Galloway is accused of participating with her boyfriend, James Plower, 51, of Olin, who was convicted for burning down his house in Martelle in 2013 in order to collect over $150,000 in insurance money. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud and use of fire to commit a felony last year and is serving 13 years in federal 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 in 2013 to participate in a plan to defraud the insurance company.

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.

An affidavit filed in Galloway’s case states 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.

The ex-wife also told authorities that Plower said he would make it look like an electrical malfunction or make it look like a cat knocked over a candle and started the fire, the affidavit shows.

At the time Galloway and Plower came up with the plan, they both had financial problems, the indictment shows. In July 2013, Galloway allegedly twice drove her 16-year-old son to the house so he could start a fire but he failed both times.

Later that same month in 2013, Plower attempted to set a fire to the house but failed. He tried again on July 25 and this time started a fire.

An affidavit shows Plower told police Galloway wasn’t involved but he admitted some of the insurance money went to pay Galloway’s car payments and other bills. During a search of their home, investigators seized $5,320 in cash.

Plower eventually told investigators that Galloway attempted to start a fire at the house in the bathroom before he first tried to start a fire. He said Galloway knew what he was planning.

In December 2014, an Olin city clerk, who was friends with Galloway, told investigators that after the fire the couple brought her $10,000 and told her they didn’t want authorities to seize it. At some point, Galloway told the clerk that Plower set the fire.

In June 15, 2016 Plower, from prison, told investigators Galloway used $2,000 to help her father and another $4,000 went to Galloway’s attorney for her child custody case.

Galloway also faces a second-degree arson charge in Jones County District Court for the house fire, court documents show. A trial is set for Oct. 18.

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