A Faulkner County man previously scheduled to stand trial in a theft and insurance fraud case has pleaded guilty to seven of the theft charges previously filed against him and agreed to pay back $50,000 in restitution.
Terry L. Wyatt, 59, of Vilonia was charged in February 2017 with first-degree engaging in a continuing criminal gang, four counts of theft of property, three counts of theft by receiving, four counts of insurance fraud and possession of firearms by certain persons. Online records show he pleaded guilty to seven of the charges against him in a negotiated plea entry last week.
The Vilonia man has pleaded guilty to three counts of theft of property, three counts of theft by receiving and one count of attempted theft of property.
A 51-page affidavit was filed against Wyatt in February 2017 by Arkansas Department of Insurance Criminal Investigation Division Chief Special Prosecutor Daniel J. Reber following an investigation that launched in August 2015 regarding fraudulent insurance claims made by Wyatt using his A-1 Towing and Recovery towing business.
The Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office had received a tip in August 2015. According to the affidavit, the tipster alerted police that Wyatt was using the towing business and other businesses he owned to file fake insurance claims.
“During their investigation in conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Insurance Criminal Investigation Division, it was found that Terry Wyatt committed or attempted to commit or solicited to commit a felony insurance fraud, theft and theft by receiving on at least four separate occasions with at least five other participants and that Terry Wyatt occupied a position of organizer, a supervisory position, or any other position of management.”
FCSO received a vehicle theft report from Wyatt’s shop at his residence on 56 Wyatt Lane in Vilonia on April 30, 2015.
Wyatt reported a white Mercury Mountaineer that was at the shop for repair was stolen from the shop.
Though he initially told police he did not have a suspect in mind, the affidavit states he later told an insurance representative who he thought could be responsible for the theft.
When police questioned the “possible suspect,” the man denied any involvement in the particular theft but said that he was involved with other incidents involving Wyatt.
The man told investigators “he had nothing to do with the reported theft, but said he had been involved in several other thefts and incidents with Terry Wyatt, and that he was willing to assist investigators in the investigation of a continuing theft and fraud scheme that had been perpetrated by Terry Wyatt for a long period of time.”The informant said he worked alongside in two separate theft schemes involving “the theft and destruction of boats in order for Wyatt to collect insurance money.”
The first scheme detailed to FCSO involved a 2009 Tahoe ski boat that had become A-1 Towing & Recovery’s property after it had been reported as abandoned property on his lot on Wyatt Lane. According to the affidavit, Wyatt offered the informant’s girlfriend $500 to purchase the boat so that she could register it under name. After the boat was registered, Wyatt said he would “take the boat away.”
From there, Wyatt gave the woman a fake bill of sale that made it appear she was making payments on the vehicle even though she had not given Wyatt any money for the vehicle.
A-1 Recovery was listed as the boat’s lien holder and the insurance policy for the ski boat was listed under and paid for under one of A-1 Recovery’s credit card accounts, the affidavit states.
A theft report involving the ski boat was filed through the Poinsett County Sheriff’s Office in September 2014 and A-1 Recovery was ultimately issued a $21,776.36 payment through Shelter Insurance.
The second alleged fraud involved a 2009 Nautique ski boat, and the scheme was carried out similarly.
According to the informant, Wyatt claimed the second ski boat was sold to one of his employees, meanwhile he and the informant build the boat in a hole with brush.
While attempting to burn up the boat, “things got out of control” and the Vilonia Fire Department was called to Wyatt’s property.
Wyatt told responding firefighters he was burning brush when “some diesel fuel exploded” and that he did not want the fire department on his property.
FCSO deputies reportedly recovered $170,000 worth of stolen property at Wyatt’s residence when conducting a search warrant on the property in 2015, according to a press release issued in August 2015.
Online records show that Wyatt is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14 in Faulkner County Circuit Court regarding the aforementioned case.