LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A federal grand jury has accused an Arkansas woman of creating a fake will for a Deepwater Horizon oil explosion survivor who was later killed in a car wreck so her daughter would inherit his million-dollar estate.
Donna Herring of Camden, Arkansas, was indicted on charges of money laundering, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The indictment was unsealed earlier this month and first reported Tuesday by the Texarkana Gazette.
At issue is the estate of Matthew Seth Jacobs, who survived the 2010 Gulf of Mexico explosion that killed 11 people but died in a 2015 car crash near his home in Arkansas. A separate civil lawsuit filed against Herring notes that Jacobs was part of a class-action lawsuit that had a multimillion-dollar settlement.
“The settlement allowed Matthew to amass substantial wealth at a relatively young age, and proceeds of the settlement make up the bulk of his probate estate,” the civil lawsuit said.
Both the civil lawsuit and indictment accuse Herring, whose daughter had dated Jacobs, of creating a fake will online in Jacobs’ name six days after his death.
According to court records, Jacobs’ brother and Jacobs’ teenage son searched his home for a will following the death, but found nothing. The civil suit said that Herring later “claimed that she discovered a sealed envelope with the initial ‘MJ’ on it containing a duplicate of a last will and testament for Matthew.”
That document was filed in court, and Herring’s daughter received the bulk of Jacobs’ estate, valued at about $1.7 million. The federal indictment said Herring’s son received $50,000.
Herring, whose criminal trial is set for Feb. 6, has pleaded not guilty and has also denied the civil lawsuit’s allegations in a court filing. Herring’s attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.