Following a three and a half week jury trial in Albany, Georgia, Elbert Walker, Jr. a/k/a “Shula”, Cairo, Georgia, was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson and mail, wire, bank and bankruptcy fraud and false declarations to a court as well as several firearms offenses. Darryl Burk, Cairo, Georgia, was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Shirley Burk, Cairo, Georgia, was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson, mail fraud and false declarations to a court. The jury deliberated just over one day before returning the verdicts. Senior United States District Court Judge W. Louis Sands presided over the trial.
The evidence presented at trial showed that between 1996 and 2006, Elbert Walker, Jr. was the owner and operator of Southside Grocery in Camilla, Georgia; Northside Home Remodeling in Cairo and Moultrie, Georgia; J and J Hauling, Roofing and Construction in Cairo, Georgia; North Broad Mini Market in Thomasville, Georgia; Rainbow Club located in Pelham, Georgia; Chickasaw Club in Cairo, Georgia; and Zock Rock Publishing and Promotions, Inc. located in Cairo, Georgia. Co-defendants Darryl Burk and Shirley Denise Burk were residents of Grady County, Georgia and relatives of Elbert Walker, Jr.
The three defendants conspired to destroy residential dwellings in the Grady, Mitchell, Thomas and Colquitt County areas by intentionally setting fire to them. They then defrauded insurance providers by falsely claiming that proceeds of insurance policies should be paid to them. In addition, the trio defrauded lending institutions in order to obtain financing for residential mortgage loans for the properties and presented counterfeit and forged checks associated with the proceeds of said insurance policies. Finally, Mr. Walker and Mrs. Burk defrauded the United States Bankruptcy Court and United States District Court.
The properties involved in the conspiracy were located at 1097 Bondvilla Drive, Cairo, Georgia; 410 Oak Street, Thomasville, Georgia; 555 Baggs Ferry Road, Camilla, Georgia; 605 S. Harney Street, Camilla, Georgia; and 608 Oak Circle, Moultrie, Georgia.
The evidence showed that Mr. Walker was previously convicted of Welfare Fraud Conspiracy in New Jersey. In 2007 and 2011, agents executed search warrants at his residence in Cairo, Georgia and located multiple firearms in his possession. Some of these firearms also had obliterated serial numbers.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said, “This scheme had been ongoing for several years and I commend the dedicated effort of the investigators and prosecutors who brought this long-running criminal activity to a conclusion. This is an outstanding example of how cooperation between local, state and federal authorities can bring about justice that would not be achieved by any one entity acting alone.”
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; United States Secret Service, Georgia State Fire Marshal’s Office, Grady County Sheriff’s Office, Pelham Police Department, and Moultrie Fire Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Foster prosecuted the case for the Government.