Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Former Ft. Stewart Soldier Receives 70 Months Imprisonment for Faking Wife's Death and Collecting Insurance Proceeds

Edmund A. Booth, Jr., United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, announced that Ingerberth Baird, age 38, was sentenced on October 14, 2008, in U.S. District Court in Savannah to 70 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield.

Booth commented that, in imposing sentence, Judge Edenfield made an upward variance from the advisory guidelines range of 44 to 51 months, finding that Baird committed perjury when he testified on his own behalf at trial and noting that Baird remained totally unrepentant of his criminal actions. Baird had been convicted by a jury on January 29, 2008, on one count of conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, one count of making false claims against the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 287, and one count of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.

Baird had been extradited from Trinidad to face the charges in this case in June 2007. Booth noted that Baird will be transferred to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation to his home country of Trinidad after he completes serving his sentence.

The convictions rested upon the evidence at trial which established the following :Ingerberth Baird and his wife, Nicolette, lived in Hinesville, Georgia, in 2002. Ingerberth Baird was an enlisted officer in the U.S. Army, posted at Ft. Stewart. Nicolette Baird was an elementary school teacher at Joseph Martin Elementary School in Hinesville. In September 2002, Nicolette Baird requested time off to travel to Trinidad, where she had been born, to attend a family funeral. Several days later, a person identifying himself as Nicolette's husband called the principal of Joseph Martin Elementary to report that Nicolette had died in an automobile accident in Trinidad. Ingerberth Baird sought leave from his duties with the United States Army and traveled to Trinidad shortly after Nicolette's reported death, spending eleven days there before returning to the United States. The evidence further showed that in October and November, 2002, Ingerberth Baird applied for benefits under life insurance policies covering Nicolette through the U.S. Army (under the Family Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program, or "FSGLI") and the Liberty County, Georgia school system.

In connection with those claims, he presented a handwritten death certificate and handwritten police report purportedly describing Nicolette's death in Trinidad. Ingerberth Baird received over $100,000 from the U.S. Army FSGLI policy on Nicolette. The benefit was paid in the form of a checking account funded with the entire benefit amount, and a checkbook drawn on that account was mailed to Ingerberth Baird at his home. Over the course of October and November, 2002, Ingerberth Baird wrote numerous checks that totally depleted the account. In December 2002, Ingerberth Baird left the United States for Trinidad.

Shortly thereafter, it was determined that the death claim was false in that the handwritten death certificate was counterfeit and that no registrar of deaths with the name listed on the death certificate actually existed. In April 2003, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation located Ingerberth Baird and Nicolette Baird, alive, living together in Cunupia, Trinidad. At that time, Ingerberth Baird admitted to the FBI agents that he knew on his first trip to Trinidad in September 2002, right after his wife's reported death, that no accident had occurred and that his wife was alive.

Booth praised the efforts of Special Agents Joseph Swiatek and Freddie Watkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States was represented by Assistant United States Attorneys R. Brian Tanner and Brian F. McEvoy.

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