Judge: Outdoorsman must pay $1 million for filing bogus claim
MOBILE (AP) — A federal judge has ordered jailed outdoorsman Edmond H. “Eddie” Smith IV to pay more than $1 million to an insurance firm that accused him of filing a bogus post-Hurricane Katrina damage claim for a riverfront mansion near Mobile.
Lexington Insurance Co. sued Smith in May.
U.S. District Judge William Steele last week granted Lexington’s request for a default judgment for a little over $1 million. Attorneys for Lexington declined to comment.
Smith of Mobile remains in jail awaiting trial on gun and escape charges. It’s uncertain how much money the company ever will be able to collect.
Smith, who fled the United States in late May or early June and was brought back from Costa Rica in August, never responded to the insurance suit.
Federal crime probe
FBI spokesman Tim White said that Smith is the target of a federal criminal probe, but that it is not “directly related” to the lawsuit. He said he could not elaborate further.
Smith, widely known in the region for his hunting and fishing exploits, was the focus of a series of newspaper stories this year examining his flamboyant and controversial career and his criminal past.
Lexington accused Smith of submitting fraudulent construction invoices to substantiate claims that the Fowl River home, where he was living but which was titled under another man’s name, sustained serious damage from Katrina in August 2005.
The lawsuit stated that when a Lexington adjuster later went to the home and saw that the kitchen did not appear repaired as the receipts showed, Smith told her that the work had been done, but that the area sustained new damage from a recent storm.
Documents listed Evan J. Wolfe as the owner of the property, but Lexington contends that the sale was a “sham transaction” and that Smith was the true owner.
According to Lexington — and affidavits by the mortgage company, Washington Mutual — the insurance payments were delivered with two-party checks, made out to Wolfe, as owner, and to Washington Mutual, as holder of the loan. Both parties had to sign the checks for them to be cashed.
The first check, for $250,000, was cut on April 14, 2006. It was signed by a Washington Mutual employee, and by Smith, ostensibly acting on Wolfe’s behalf.
Five additional checks were cut by Lexington from July 21, 2006 to Dec. 2, 2006. In each case, the signatures of Washington Mutual employees were forged, according to the lawsuit and the affidavits.
The suit also named Wolfe as a defendant and contended that he authorized Smith to act as his agent in filing insurance claims on his home. Steele’s order last week did not affect the civil complaint against Wolfe.
Wolfe has denied any wrongdoing. Court records show that he fired his attorneys but that he has not yet replaced them. He could not be reached for comment.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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