Federal Jury Convicts Four Family Members on Charges Related to an Arson and Insurance Fraud Scheme

Updated 4 weeks ago From a Release by U.S. Attorney's Office for Southern District of WV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced today that a federal jury sitting in Charleston returned guilty verdicts following the trial of four family members from southern West Virginia.   

The jury found Windel Lester, 67, his ex-wife Georgetta Lester Kenney, 42, and Windel Lester’s sons, James “Punkin” Lester, 48, and Greg Lester, 41, guilty of various charges related to an arson and insurance fraud scheme.  The guilty verdicts came after a five day jury trial before Senior United States District Judge David A. Faber.   The West Virginia Insurance Commission, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the West Virginia State Police conducted the investigation.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the verdict,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “Insurance fraud and arson are serious matters that cause insurance premiums to be inflated, the destruction of property, and the very real risk that good folks could die as a result. I applaud the excellent work of the investigators in this case, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Phil Wright and Greg McVey, and the rest of my team.  We appreciate the attention of the jury in this matter.”

Windel Lester was found guilty of 17 felony charges and faces 340 years imprisonment.  James “Punkin” Lester was found guilty of 23 felony charges and faces 475 years imprisonment.  Georgetta Lester Kenney was found guilty of 7 felony charges and faces 140 years imprisonment.  Greg Lester was found guilty of 4 felony charges and faces 80 years imprisonment.  Sentencing hearings for the defendants are scheduled for December 20, 2018. 

Between April of 2012 and January of 2016, the defendants, along with others, participated in various ways in three separate but interrelated schemes involving arson, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. Their overall purpose was to enrich themselves by fraudulently obtaining insurance proceeds on houses they intentionally burned. The houses were insured for amounts greatly exceeding their value and the value of any contents. The houses were located at Matoaka in Mercer County, Huntington in Cabell County, and Ikes Fork in Wyoming County.  

Others involved included Dudley Bledsoe, Ricky Gleason, and James Browning, all of whom pled guilty and cooperated in the prosecution of the Lester family.

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