Wyoming's Lester family busted for allegedly burning down houses to collect insurance

WYOMING CO., WV (WOAY) – The Lester family is fairly well known throughout Wyoming County.  They own the Lester Home Center and Lester Mobile Home Sales.

Now, instead of helping people buy or furnish their homes, they’re charged with buying homes and burning them down for insurance money.

Court documents show that Windel Lester, his ex-wife Georgetta, and sons James and Gregory, came up with a scheme to buy two vacant houses, torch them, then collect the insurance money.  They got more than $550,000, which they split four ways.

The Feds shut down their two businesses.

The two properties are in Matoka, which is in Mercer County, and in Huntington.

At last check, Windel, James and Gregory are at the Southern Regional Jail without bond.

Here’s the news release from the US Attorney in Charleston:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A federal grand jury sitting in Charleston indicted four defendants from McDowell County on Wednesday for federal insurance fraud crimes, announced United States Attorney Carol Casto. Windel Lester, 66, James Edward Lester, 47, Gregory A. Lester, 40, and Georgetta Lester, 41, all of Iaeger, were charged with federal crimes including conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and mail fraud. A copy of the indictment is attached.

The indictment alleges that between April of 2012 and April of 2014, the Lesters and others devised a scheme to defraud an insurance company by buying vacant properties, insuring the properties, setting fires to the properties in order to makes insurance claims, submitting false insurance claims, and receiving over $550,000 in insurance payments made on the false insurance claims. The properties involved in the alleged fraud were a residence at 101 Smokeless Road in Matoaka, Mercer County, and 3542 Norwood Road in Huntington, Cabell County. The indictment also alleges that after the Lesters received the insurance money, they laundered the money through at least two banks in southern West Virginia. Windel Lester was a member of the Board of Directors of one of the banks.

If convicted, the Lesters face up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering, and up to 10 years for money laundering. The fraud charges are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. Conspiracy to commit arson carries a penalty of 10 years in federal prison. The use of fire to commit a felony carries a sentence of up to 10 years, or, in Windel Lester and James Lester’s cases, a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for a second offense.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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