Man sentenced on false insurance claim

MARIETTA – A Belpre man was sentenced Tuesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court for collecting insurance money on a motocross bike he had reported stolen, but in actuality sold to a friend.

Blake M. Keel, 20, of 707 Pomeroy Pike will spend 60 days in the Washington County Jail, ordered Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth.

“(Keel) has asked that the court allow him to serve time on weekends so he can keep his job,” said Keel’s attorney Nancy Brum.

However, Burnworth ordered Keel to serve the 60 days consecutively on the fifth-degree felony charge of falsification, to which Keel pleaded guilty on Feb. 5.

Initially Keel had been indicted on a fourth-degree felony count of theft, a fourth-degree felony count of receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony count of falsification and a fifth-degree felony count of insurance fraud for lying about the theft.

The dirt bike in question was purchased through a bank loan from Riverview Credit Union in Belpre in 2011, which Keel’s father, William Keel, signed off on, said Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider.

However, neither Blake nor William made a single payment on the 2008 Kawasaki 250R, and it was about to be repossessed when Blake’s relatives reported it stolen on July 25, 2011, said Schneider.

“When the sheriff’s office called Blake he said ‘I haven’t seen the bike since I rode it up to grandma’s house,'” said Schneider.

Citing the stolen bike report, the Keels had the insurance company pay off the bank loan on the bike of $2,590, he said.

But the bike was found two months later when Belpre resident Robert Fracasso was stopped by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Both the dirt bike and the truck hauling it were reported stolen, but Fracasso told police he had purchased the bike from Blake in July.

Blake later admitted to officers the bike had never been stolen, but had been hidden in Parkersburg before being sold, said Schneider.

“Since they found the bike, the insurance company recovered it and sold it and were able to get some of their money back,” he said.

Since Ohio law prevents ordering restitution to the insurance company for the remaining amount, Schneider suggested ordering $1,505.38 restitution to the credit union, who would in turn be obligated to pass the money along to the insurance company.

Burnworth ordered the restitution. He also ordered Blake to three years of community control and required him to undergo evaluation for the court’s “Thinking For A Change” program, a cognitive behavioral change program developed by The National Institute of Corrections.

Blake faced a maximum one-year prison sentence on the fifth-degree felony charge, but avoided prison because he has no prior felonies.

Blake does have several misdemeanor convictions, including trafficking in marijuana and two probation violations as a juvenile.