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John Thompson

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Man in helicopter case awaits hearing

December 9th, 2011 12:10 am by John Thompson

Man in helicopter case awaits hearing

ELIZABETHTON — An Elizabethton man remains in the Carter County Jail while he awaits an extradition hearing that would send him to North Carolina on a charge he stole a helicopter.
Benjamin T. Barrick, 41, 2613 Bob Little Road, is charged with larceny over $250,000 by the Elizabethtown, N.C. Police Department.
Elizabethtown Chief of Police Robert L. Kinlaw said Thursday that the warrant stems from an agreement in which Barrick was supposed to tow a helicopter and 12 spare helicopter blades from Elizabethtown to a location in South Carolina.
“He left with the helicopter but he apparently never delivered it to South Carolina,” Kinlaw said. The chief said the helicopter’s owner lost contact with Barrick and he did not see the helicopter again.
Kinlaw said the incident happened on May 1, 2009, and the helicopter was reported to his department as stolen on Aug. 27, 2010. He said Barrick was entered into the national crime computer listing at the same time the warrant was issued.
Despite the national listing, Barrick was not connected to the warrant when he was arrested in Washington County in January on a charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Barrick was accused of attempting to hire a man to murder the ex-boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend. The man he allegedly made the agreement with was a confidential informant for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
Barrick entered a guilty plea under an Alford, or best interest, arrangement. He received an eight-year sentence that was suspended to 15 years on probation. The plea agreement was approved because of credibility concerns about the confidential informant.
Local officials did not think the latest charge against Barrick will result in a violation of that probation because the North Carolina incident happened before he was placed on probation.
While Barrick is being held in the Carter County Jail without bond on a fugitive from justice warrant, he probably will not be extradited until after he has an appearance in Carter County Criminal Court on a recall on theft charges.
Barrick’s background includes other incidents involving helicopters.
In May 2004, Barrick was working with the Franklin County, N.C. Sheriff’s Department when he crashed in a helicopter, taking the life of his passenger, Deputy Ted Horton.
News reports at the time of the accident reported the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that metal fatigue caused the tail boom to fail, causing the crash. Barrick’s inexperience as a pilot was also a factor.
Barrick was charged with involuntary manslaughter following the accident, but WRAL television reported that federal law prohibits NTSB investigators from testifying about conclusions or opinions about the crash. Without that testimony, the case was dropped. A later civil case filed by Horton’s widow was also dropped.
Barrick was involved in a million dollar lawsuit in Texas in 2007 over a helicopter contract. According to the Southeast Texas Legal Journal, Barrick and others filed the suit to obtain an injunction to prevent a company from repossessing some helicopters and seeking compensatory and other damages.
According to the lawsuit, Barrick and the other plaintiffs contracted with Barken International Inc. to purchase nine helicopters at a cost of $1.1 million. Barken claimed the plaintiffs still owe $550,000, leading to attempts to repossess the helicopters.
Barken owner Herman Ventor told WRAL-TV that he did not know Barrick’s background when he made the deal.
“I was shocked. I went ‘Oh man, there goes my money,’ ” Ventor told WRAL. He went on to say “It’s just too much. All this fraud, and he gets away with it. ... I think he is a scam artist.”

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