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2013-07-04

Recent FBI raid scoops up Bandera resident

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Residents of Highway 173 North awoke to a bit of excitement the morning of Friday, June 21, when agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed an arrest warrant on a Bandera County resident. According to reports, a SWAT team - fully accoutered with requisite flash bang grenades - accompanied the more conventional federal law enforcement officers.
When the flashing and banging ceased, FBI agents arrested Charles Hugh Croley at approximately 7:30 am at his residence in the 5600 block of Highway 173 North where he had purportedly been living in a metal barn on the back of the property. Croley has been charged with multiple counts of mail fraud conspiracy.
The arrest came after more than a yearlong investigation by the FBI in conjunction with agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the office of the Bandera County Fire Marshal.
On Wednesday, June 19, a federal grand jury in San Antonio indicted Croley with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, stemming from a trio of alleged arson incidents. According to the indictment, Croley, along with others, allegedly committed arson in Texas and Kentucky, which destroyed residential properties and contents, vehicles and a barn. The indictment stated that after the alleged arsons had occurred, Croley, a resident of Williamsburg, Kentucky, and Bandera, collected insurance payments on all the destroyed properties and items.
Insurance companies involved included the Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and its subsidiary, the Hartford Underwriter's Insurance Company, as well as the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Company and the American National Insurance Company.
Croley came under scrutiny of federal agents after his home on Highway 173 North burned on Feb. 9, 2012. Croley was apparently not in the area at that time. The Bandera County Courier reported on the fire in the Thursday, Feb. 16, edition. A preliminary investigation indicated the blaze had been caused by faulty electrical wiring The $200,000 ranch-style residence was a total loss, said Fire Marshal John Stith.
However, at the time of the fire, it was generally known that in 2008, a large barn on the property had also burned. According to law enforcement reports, when the second fire occurred, which also resulted in a hefty insurance payout, FBI agents opened their investigation.
The "subject arson properties" listed in the indictment included:
• The Jan. 25, 2008, barn fire in Bandera that also included destruction of a 2008 Ford F-450 pickup truck and a horse trailer and contents.
• The Jan. 8, 2009, and May 13, 2009, house fires in Williamsburg, Kentucky.
• The Feb. 9, 2012, house fire, in Bandera.
In each case, Croley was the owner and insured interest. He was indicted on three counts of mail fraud conspiracy in connection with the alleged arson cases. In all claims, he received a insurance payouts in the six figures.
A media coordinator at the FBI's San Antonio office explained that the federal law enforcement agency routinely investigates possible mail fraud, which occurs when a suspect receives a fraudulent insurance payment through the United States Postal Service - which, in this case, Croley allegedly did.
After his arrest, the suspect was transported to San Antonio where he was turned over to the US Marshals Service for safekeeping. It was speculated that Croley was tucked away in the US Marshal's GEO Unit in San Antonio. The GEO Group, Inc. is a private company that contracts with the US Marshals Service. With approximately 95 facilities that include 72,000 beds and 18,000 employees, GEO provides correctional, detention and community reentry services around the globe.
After appearing at a detention hearing on Wednesday, June 26, at the United States District Court, Western District of Texas, Croley was released with a secured bond of $100,000 bond with a 10 percent deposit. Croley pleaded not guilty to all charges.
If found guilty of the mail fraud conspiracy, Croley faces up to a year in prison as well as possible forfeiture of real estate property in Bandera and Williamsburg, Kentucky as well as $30,222 in a Wells Fargo account, and a money judgment of $328,696. The money judgment constitutes proceeds or is derived from proceeds that can be traced to the violations with which Croley has been charged.