Two of three South Georgians convicted on federal fraud charges were sentenced in Albany on Thursday to a combined time of more than 15 years in a case that originated with the Moultrie Fire Department.
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia Senior Judge W. Louis Sands sentenced Elbert “Shula” Walker Jr., to a 121-month term in federal prison. During the same session, Sands also sentenced Shirley Denise Burk to serve 60 months.
Walker, 67, Burk, 48, and Darryl Burk, all of Cairo, were each convicted in November 2015 after a nearly four-week trial.
Prosecutors said that they intentionally set fire to residences in Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Thomas counties. As part of the scheme the three defrauded insurance providers by falsely collecting from insurance policies on the houses, defrauded lending institutions to obtain mortgage loans, and presented counterfeit and forged checks from the proceeds of the insurance policies.
Walker and Shirley Burk also defrauded the United States Bankruptcy Court and United States District Court, prosecutors said. Walker had a previous conviction on welfare fraud conspiracy in New Jersey, and in 2007 and 2011 federal agents found multiple firearms -- some with serial numbers removed -- at his residence.
Walker was convicted in 2015 on charges of conspiracy to commit arson and mail, wire, bank and bankruptcy fraud, making false declarations to a court and multiple firearms offenses.
The jury found Shirley Burk guilty for conspiracy to commit arson, mail fraud and false declarations to a court.
Darryl Burk will be sentenced on May 19.
The properties at which fires were set were at 608 Oak Circle in Moultrie, 555 Baggs Ferry Road and 605 S. Harney St. in Camilla, 1097 Bondvilla Drive in Cairo, and 410 Oak St. in Thomasville.
The investigation was carried out by the Moultrie Fire Department; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Secret Service; the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner’s Office, Grady County Sheriff’s Office; and the Pelham Police Department.