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Gate City man pleads guilty to insurance fraud

Wes Bunch • Jun 20, 2014 at 7:39 AM

GATE CITY — A Southwest Virginia man who claimed a lightning strike killed more than a dozen head of cattle pleaded guilty to insurance fraud during an appearance this week in Scott County court.

Gabriel Parks, 32, of Gate City, had been scheduled to stand trial Friday on a single felony count of attempting to obtain money by false pretenses but instead pleaded guilty Tuesday to the charge.

"We were preparing for a jury trial and felt strongly about our case," said Scott County Commonwealth's Attorney Marcus McClung.

Parks will be sentenced Sept. 10 in Scott County Circuit Court. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Scott County veterinarian Bill Fuller pleaded guilty in October 2013 to a single misdemeanor count of attempting to obtain money by false pretenses.

Both men were indicted by a Scott County grand jury in August 2013 following an investigation by Virginia State Police special agents.

"We brought charges based on what each person submitted," McClung said. "Over $200 is a felony, under that amount is a misdemeanor."

Investigators with Farm Bureau insurance notified authorities of suspicious activity involving Parks after he submitted a $22,000 claim in May 2013.

Parks claimed a lightning strike was responsible for killing a total of 17 cattle on May 6 at a farm he rented near Gate City.

Authorities said their investigation determined that no cows had been killed, and that no lightning strikes were recorded in the area around Parks' farm on the day in question.

Parks approached Fuller, authorities said, and asked him to verify that the lightning strike had occurred and that the cattle had been killed as a result.

Fuller was charged after submitting a $115 claim to the insurance company for a farm visit and necropsy he did not perform.

Authorities said at the time that Parks had not lost any cattle and that several of the supposedly dead cows were in fact still located on his farm.

Investigators said Parks admitted to fabricating the story just two days after turning the insurance claim in on May 8.

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