A former North Augusta insurance agent and a Texas couple accused of fraud in obtaining life insurance policies valued at $4 million on a woman who was later murdered entered reduced pleas Monday in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C.
According to court documents, Charles Mercier and Mark and Virginia Buckland each pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false statement, guilty pleas that were announced as ready back in July 2019.
Mercier, a former insurance agent who wrote many insurance policies for members of the Murphy Village Irish Travellers community, and the Bucklands were named in connection with a massive racketeering case that targeted members of the community with allegations of theft and fraud.
Two others — Bernard "Little Joe" Gorman and Bernard "Big Joe" Gorman — were accused of conspiracy in the stabbing death of Mrs. Buckland's mother, 69-year-old Anita Fox in 2014. Little Joe Gorman pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and was sentenced to 14 years in 2017. Big Joe Gorman died of natural causes.
According to court documents and earlier media reports, the Bucklands transferred ownership of one of the $1 million life insurance policies on Fox. The Gormans ended up with that policy and paid the premiums until Fox was stabbed to death in a Colleyville, Texas, home where she worked as a housekeeper.
In the plea agreements entered Monday by Mercier and the Bucklands, each pleaded guilty to making a false statement in the federal investigation of the insurance policies on Fox's life.
As part of Monday's plea agreement, the Bucklands forfeit any claim to the insurance proceeds.
The Bucklands filed a civil lawsuit in Texas to try to force the insurance company to pay the policies. A jury ruled against them in 2018.
A sentencing date hasn't been set, but the agreement is for five-year probation sentences.
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