Camden woman charged with faking Deepwater Horizon survivor's will

By Tabitha Fleming | Jan 20, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas woman has been indicted on charges that she created a fake will for a Deepwater Horizon survivor, giving the largest portion of his estate to her daughter following his death in an auto accident.

Donna Peterson Herring of Camden, Arkansas, was indicted on a variety of charges stemming from the death, which included wire fraud and money laundering.

Matthew Seth Jacobs, a survivor of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil-rig explosion known as Deepwater Horizon, received a nearly $2 million dollar settlement, the Texarkana Gazette reported. It was after that time that he met Herring, a real-estate agent.

According to documents filed in the civil suit, Herring became close to Matthews, and even encouraged a romantic relationship between Jacobs, and her daughter, Alex Peterson, a girl who was 16 years his junior. Both the civil suit and the criminal case claim that Herring created a fake will for Matthews after his death.

Bruce Tidwell, attorney for the estate, talked about the case and the probate issues that this sort of situation creates with The Louisiana Record.

“Basically, the probate case and the civil-court case are to try to recover the monies in the estate. The criminal case is just that, for what may have gone on that was criminal activities,” he said.

The multiple open cases have created a bit of a problem for the probate court, which Tidwell explained. “There is a probate action that is still open where we are trying to recover monies that had been paid out already based on the will that turned out to be invalid. So that that money can be put back into the estate and distributed correctly,” he said.

Tidwell, as a representative for the estate in probate court, is seeking the return of the money that Peterson and Herring gained through what is now believed to be a fake will following Jacobs’ death. However, some of the money has already been spent, and for that, there is a civil case.

“The circuit-court action is, to the extent that we can’t get that money back, into the probate and do it, we’re seeking damages against Ms. Herring and the others who provided the probate court with the incorrect information that kind of led to the initial payout of the monies,” Tidwell said.

The information provided and the following investigation is what ultimately led to Herring’s arrest and the criminal charges she is now facing. The FBI began the investigation after a phone call from another attorney involved in the civil case. Following the formal charges by the U.S. Attorney General’s office, Tidwell said, all of the financial assets have been frozen. Tidwell said the probate court is working with the office to see if those resources can be returned to the estate and the probate case can move forward, but it may be unlikely.

“There is a hearing set in the probate case right now, but basically what is happening is when [The US Attorney’s Office] went in in the criminal case, they seized a lot of the assets that we’re trying to get put back in the probate case,” he said.

“So part of what’s going on now too, is interplay between the probate and the criminal case trying to get assets back into the probate case where they can be taken care of there. I mean, from a technical standpoint one probably doesn’t rely on the other but in reality, they’re probably all tied together. We’re working with them to see if we can get that back in the estate to make that happen, but until we do that , there’s really nothing that the probate court can do.”

For now, Herring, the only person named in both the civil and the criminal case, has been released from custody and is on bond.

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