Day 3: Defendants learn how much they owe in restitution in case of forged will

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (11/14/19) The defendants in the case of a forged will have learned their fate. Today, a judged rules on restitution payments.

Donna Herring and John and Diane Kinley appeared before United States District Judge Susan Hickey at the United States District Court of the Western District of Arkansas-El Dorado Division.

Day 3 included determining the mandatory amount of restitution that would be paid to the rightful heir of Matthew Seth Jacobs’ estate which is his son, Jordan Jacobs.

The government didn’t seek restitution against Herring’s daughter, Alex Peterson.

In addition to their sentences, Herring and the Kinley’s are jointly responsible for paying back $132,964.66.

Herring’s attorney agreed to take responsibility for the amount but Kinley’s attorneys argued they shouldn’t be responsible because they never received any of the money or property that was fraudulently taken.

Assistant Attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office, Ben Wulff, argued they all engaged in the schemes together and the Kinley’s signatures caused the money/property to be taken from the estate.

Judge Hickey ruled they would all be required to pay the entire restitution amount, though the amounts weren’t split equally. This means one party could possibly pay more than the other.

The amount must be paid immediately and no later than the end of supervised release, which would be in 2026.

Herring’s attorney, Erin Cassineli, said her and her client don’t plan to appeal the sentence.

“I think the judge did a good job of considering all of the factors and rendering a just sentence for Mrs. Herring and she’ll go and serve it and then she’ll move on with her life,” Casinelli said.

Between now and the end of supervised release, Casinelli expects the public to know the full truth of what happened and who all was involved.

“There was a very limited amount of information that was disclosed in the context of these proceeding because they are very narrow proceedings,” Cassineli said. “It’s not necessary to go into all of those details when you’re just addressing one person’s conduct but for the larger story there’s definitely more to it.”

The Kinley’s attorneys didn’t comment and neither did the Kinley’s. When asked what they planned to do between now and the day they report to prison, Diane Kinley said they’ll “have the holiday and get back to work.”

Herring and the Kinley’s will all report to federal prison on January 22, 2020.

Day 2: Other two co-conspirators sentenced for their roles in creating a fake will that took over a million dollars from the rightful heir

EL DORADO, Ark. (11/12/19) — The second day of sentencing hearings included Donna Herring’s sister, Diane Kinley and Herring’s daughter, Alex Peterson. Both appeared before United States District Judge Susan Hickey at the United States District Court of the Western District of Arkansas-El Dorado Division.

Both pleaded guilty to charges in connection to forging a will for the late Matthew Seth Jacobs.

Diane’s husband was sentenced to 12 months plus one day in prison on Tuesday afternoon for his “minor” role in the events while Donna Herring, the main culprit received 41 months.

Diane’s sentencing hearing was first and lasted over three hours. Much of the debate between her attorney, Bruce Eddy and Assistant Attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office, Ben Wulff, included arguments on whether or not Diane played a minor role in the schemes.

Eddy argued that his client, Diane Kinley, played a minor role and referred to call history logs from Diane and Donna, who are sisters.

Donna called Diane around 2:34 a.m. on January 25 to ask for Diane’s credit card number to purchase the fake will. That will was created just minutes after the sisters hung up the phone with each other.

Eddy claimed his client didn’t know why her sister, Donna ,needed her credit card number because it’s not the first time she has given her card information to Donna.

He called an FBI agent to the stand to make his point that the government couldn’t prove that Diane knew why her card was being used because there is no record of the what was actually said in the conversation.

Eddy said the government is going off of speculation based on a “lengthy” six minute phone call between the sisters.

The government argued that no other time that month did the two sisters ever make phone calls any earlier than 9:30 a.m. and no later than about 6:30 p.m. The call made at 2:34 a.m. on Jan. 25 was very unusual to the government.

After the government’s argument Eddy then called Diane’s husband John to the stand. He testified that his wife, Diane, would willingly let multiple people use her card information because she had such a “generous spirit”. He also said Donna was being very “persuasive” in getting them to sign the will.

The government questioned John multiple times about who helped them come up with the cover story, trying to get him to admit that his wife was the lead in that.

The government’s objection that Diane didn’t play a minor role in the schemes was denied. According to the guidelines from the pre-sentence report, Diane could’ve received 21 to 27 months in federal prison but the judge saw that as excessive.

Diane’s attorney tried to ask the judge if his client could receive probation. He argued she had didn’t have a crimincal record and that the court received numerous reports that she was a good person who meant a lot to the community.

He also argued that reports from social workers found that Diane had been abused throughout her life from her mother and Donna.

He said she suffered mental and emotional abuse. Diane and Donna have an older sister, Debbie. Eddy made reference to a conversation of when Debbie found out her younger sisters were involved in just a scheme.

According to Eddy, when Debbie learned that her first thought was “what has Donna gotten Diane into now”.

When arguing probation for Diane, he said that prison isn’t always the necessary consequence and that she could try to teach kids bullying because of the bullying she claims she receieved her entire life from her mother and sister.

Judge Hickey gave her 18 months in prison, longer than her husband.

The difference between the couple is that John admitted to FBI agents during interviews that the will was false while Diane continued to cover everything up.

Judge Hickey said the Kinley’s signed the fraudulent will, never admitted that it was fradulent while it was probated and watched as it was fraudulently dispersed.

The Kinley’s own a daycare in Camden and Diane’s attorney asked if the couple could stagger their sentences to help plan for their workers and families. The judge denied that request and said “they started the scheme together and they would go in together.”

They will report to prison on January 22 along with Donna Herring. Diane’s attorney requested she be sent to the prison in Carswell, TX because she has special medical needs.

The last person to be sentenced was Alex Peterson, Herring’s daughter. Peterson pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the whereabouts of Matthew Jacobs’ cell phone.

Peterson apparently had nothing to do with the scheme of creating the will. Though the judge said she didn’t take Peterson’s role in prohibiting the investigation lightly.

Peterson was sentenced to three years probation and home detention. She’s only authorized to leave as it pertains to her employment, medical or religious reasons or otherwise approved by her probation officer.

The restitution hearing will be on Thursday.

Woman sentenced to 41 months in prison for faking a dead man’s will, brother-in-law also sentenced for his role

EL DORADO, Ark. (11/12/19) The United States District Court of the Western District of Arkansas-El Dorado Division held two sentencing hearings in connection to a fake will that was created for the late Matthew Seth Jacobs.

Donna Herring appeared in court under United States District Judge Susan Hickey. Herring pleaded guilty to wire fraud in January 2018.

The penalty for the sentence requires no more than 20 years in prison, though the guidelines considered based on the events and Herring’s criminal history, would have possibly sent her to prison between 41 to 50 months.

After the pre-sentencing report was made and arguments were heard from attorney’s, Judge Hickey sentenced Herring to 41 months in the Bureau of Prisons.

Herring recommended to be sent to the prison in Bryan, TX. Herring’s attorney, Erin Elizabeth Cassinelli, asked if Herring could report there on a later date in January because she has been receiving back treatments. Judge Hickey agreed but the ultimate decision on where Herring will do her time is not up to Hickey.

Additionally, Herring will be on three years of supervised release after she serves her prison term. She will be prohibited from using controlled substances, owning firearms, taking on new debt or opening new lines of credit and all financial records may be reviewed by her probation office as they see fit.

Herring was also charged with conspiracy to commit and aggravated identity theft but those charges were dismissed and will not be held against her.

The sentencing preceded arguments from the defendant and plaintiff, Benjamin Wulff, who appeared in court on behalf of the United States Attorney’s Office.

When Cassinelli presented her argument to Judge Hickey, she said Herring’s judgment was clouded when she made the decision to fake Jacobs’ will because she was grieving his death.

According to reports by the Camden News, Jacobs’ died in a car accident in January 2015. Court documents showed he was injured in the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico of which he received over a million dollars from that settlement in 2012.

After his death, Jacobs’ son, Jordan Jacobs and his brother, Lance Reed, searched for a will but couldn’t find it in his home.

Six days later, Herring claimed to have discovered the will that left Jacobs’ son with just $50,000. Records show Herring created the document on FormSwift.com website.

According to the fake will Herring created, the remaining assets went to Herring’s daughter, Jordan Alexandra Peterson. Peterson and Jacobs dated for a few years and were reportedly engaged but never married.

At the time of Jacobs’ death, Peterson and Jacobs’ reportedly weren’t together and Jacobs was reportedly heading to see his “girlfriend” before the crash.

In the hearing, Cassineli said Herring thought that’s how Jacobs’ would’ve wanted the money to be divided. She also said Herring felt remorseful and really tried to get back on the right path by becoming active in church and helping meet the community’s needs. She ended by saying Herring learned a lesson and the value of telling the truth.

Herring was very emotional when she was asked if she wanted to speak and her attorney, Cassineli, had to read her statement aloud to the judge and those in the court room because she couldn’t get through the letter she wrote.

Herring’s letter stated that she was very emotional and she took full responsibility for her actions.

She claimed she loved Jacobs like he was her own. She said he didn’t deserve his memory to be tarnished the way it has and her actions hurt the people he loved. She also said she took advantage of her family’s loyalty and no one would be involved had she done the right thing.

She stated she wasn’t a horrible person she just made a horrible mistake.

Benjamin Wulff, who appeared in court on behalf of the United States Attorney’s Office, also gave an argument prior to the sentencing, saying he was struck by the “sanitized version” of what was presented to the court.”

He mentioned that Herring committed fraud involving a million dollars and had Jacobs not had so much money in estate, none of the events would’ve taken place.

Wulff admitted Jacobs’ and his son had an estranged relationship and Herring took advantage of that. Jacobs’ was 17 at the time and Wulff argued Herring took from someone that was “powerless”.

Also involved is Herring’s sister, Marion Kinley and brother-in-law, John Wayne Kinley.

The allegedly fraudulent will, which bore both of Kinley’s signatures, as witnesses, named Peterson as executor of the estate even though she was a minor and legally ineligible to serve in such a capacity at the time it was purportedly created. The Kinleys’ signatures and Matthew Jacobs’ allegedly forged signature were all dated May 13, 2014.

Kinley appeared in court in connection to the wire fraud. He was sentenced to 12 months plus one day in prison for his involvement.

In addition to the signature, the fake will was allegedly paid for with Kinley’s credit card, which Kinley’s attorney, James Bruce Bennett claimed he was asleep in his bed when the transaction took place.

Kinley is a former teacher and basketball coach. He said he regretted his involvement but he was just trying to keep the peace.

Wulff said Kinley knew better and that was completely capable of understanding the logical effect of his action.

Kinley will also be on three years of supervised release after he serves his prison term. He will be prohibited from using controlled substances, owning firearms, taking on new debt or opening new lines of credit and all financial records may be reviewed by his probation office as they see fit.

Kinley and Herring have the option to appeal their sentences within 14 days.

Marion Kinley and Jordan Alexandra Peterson will appear in court Wednesday for their sentencing hearings.

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