The FBI is seeking to seize $5 million in life insurance benefits from policies that investigators claim were fraudulently obtained for a woman killed while cleaning a house in Colleyville in 2014.
The insurance proceeds have been tied up in legal wranglings since shortly after the Sept. 22, 2014, killing of Anita Fox, 69.
Officials say a father and son — members of a nomadic, ethnic clan known as Irish Travellers — plotted to kill Fox in order to collect on a $1 million insurance policy that the father had invested in along with other family members.
The father, Gerard “Big Joe” Gorman, died of suspected natural causes before he could be arrested in the case. His son, Bernard “Little Joe” Gorman, has been charged with murder in the case and is currently free on bond awaiting trial.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The $1 million policy was one of many high-dollar insurance policies taken out on Fox.
Four other policies — totaling $4 million — were also in place, listing Fox’s son-in-law, Mark Buckland, and/or her daughter, Virginia Buckland, as beneficiaries.
Following Fox’s death, the couple filed lawsuits against the insurance companies, alleging they had failed to pay out on millions of dollars owed on the policies.
Fox’s youngest son, Al Fox III, later filed to intervene in the suits, arguing that he is the “rightful recipient” of the insurance proceeds as his mother’s nearest relative and alleging that his sister and her husband are “negligently responsible for the death of the insured,” thus prohibiting them by law from receiving the benefits.
The lawsuits have since been consolidated into one Tarrant County case.
‘Life insurance scams’
The FBI filed their application Friday for a warrant to civilly seize the money currently being held by the court after learning that mediation was underway in the case.
A probable cause affidavit by FBI Special Agent Ronald Grosse, included with the filing, states that an insurance fraud investigation had been ongoing since July 2014 — two months before Fox’s slaying — into an Irish Travellers community in North Augusta, S.C..
“Travellers have been known to be involved in life insurance scams in the past,” Grosse wrote. “These scams typically involve lying on the policy applications about income, net worth, health, identifying information, and whether other policies have been issued.”
The FBI investigation revealed that Charles Mercier, an insurance agent whose family writes life insurance policies almost exclusively for Travellers, had written five policies on Anita Fox in 2007 and 2008.
The affidavit describes Anita Fox as an English Traveller.
In July 2013, one of the $1 million policies was changed to make Pat Gorman, an Irish Traveller who resided in Virginia, a co-owner of the policy and the new beneficiary.
Mercier told investigators that the change had been made after Mark Buckland called and told him he could not afford the premiums on the Fox policies. Mercier offered to help and arranged for the Gormans to “invest” in the policy, paying Mark Buckland $2,800 a month in exchange for Pat Gorman being named beneficiary on one of the $1 million policies.
Colleyville police have said Pat Gorman, Big Joe Gorman and two other relatives all paid a portion of the policy’s premiums with plans to eventually split the proceeds.
They say greed to collect on that policy prompted Big Joe Gorman and his son to stalk and fatally stab Anita Fox.
Affidavit provides details
According to the affidavit, Mercier had admitted to investigators that he lied in applying for the original policies in 2007 and 2008 by making up false asset and liability figures for Anita Fox. He admittedly lied again in 2013 on insurance forms when he stated that Anita Fox and Pat Gorman were partners in a mobile home park, the affidavit states.
In reality, the investigation found, Fox did not own any mobile home parks in November 2007 or anytime thereafter.
In addition, Mercier acknowledged to investigators that Virginia Buckland’s signature had been forged on the form changing ownership of the $1 million policy that police say was the motivation behind Anita Fox’s slaying.
Matthew McCarley, Al Fox III’s attorney, said he sees the FBI’s request as positive for his client.
“I think it’s clear from the probable cause affidavit attached to the warrant that they think the Bucklands are bad actors. They don’t want them to get the insurance proceeds,” McCarley said. “They believe what we believe — either the Bucklands are involved in this and conspired with the Gormans or they committed insurance fraud.”
The Bucklands’ attorney, Mark Humphreys of Grand Prairie, did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.
He had previously told the Star-Telegram that Anita Fox was aware of all the policies and had been the one to suggest them, even giving her blessing to a third-party investing in one of the policies after Mark Buckland inquired in 2013 with Mercier about converting the policies from term to whole-life.
Humphreys has said the Buckland never knew who the third-party investor was, nor had they ever met the Gormans. He said the couple has been cleared in connection with Anita Fox’s slaying.