This Week in Colorado History: Insurance Fraud

According to “The Colorado Transcript,” in April, 1914, Val Turley moved to Golden along with his wife. On September 1 of that year, Turley died of heart disease a mere ten miles inside the Jefferson County line, in Golden citizen and former city council president J. Lofton Davidson’s car. Davidson reported the death to Dr. Pate and had a death certificate made. He then placed a call to Golden, asking that Mrs. Turley be notified of Turley’s death. Turley was cremated on September 3.

All seemed normal, if a bit tragic. However, when Turley was located in Kansas, still alive, the case took a sinister turn. Two days later, Davidson confessed to insurance fraud and three days after that Mr. and Mrs. Turley were arrested in Kansas. Henry Duffenbaugh and Mines alumnus Harper Orahood were also arrested as co-conspirators.

Turley, at the time of his “death” held a $19,000 insurance policy. As the company holding it felt the circumstances of his death were suspicious, they launched an investigation. Davidson apparently confessed to insurance investigators some time before the fraud was publically discovered. Unluckily for the conspirators, “Turley went to a small town in Kansas where he was known. A Denver newspaper man, hearing of him, went to investigate and the whole conspiracy was brought out.”

The scheme began no later than May, 1914, though “The Colorado Transcript” speculated it might have begun before the Turleys even came to Golden. Davidson said, “The whole deal was crooked… Turley and I were friendly. He came to me and said he was hard up and needed money. Turley told me of insurance policies amounting to $19,000.” The two men discussed “a number of plans” before settling on the one they executed, from which Davidson was to gain $2500.

Davidson was in fact the Jefferson County coroner and was thus able to easily acquire a cadaver to stand in for Turley at the funeral. Up until this point, the men had executed their plan masterfully. However, after Turley’s alleged death, he foolishly allowed himself to be seen in Denver between the second and third of September. Therefore, the insurance company discovered the conspiracy and Davidson confessed it to them at that time. The company agreed to ignore the incident so long as the claims were dropped. According to “The Colorado Transcript,” “This was done,” but Turley’s visibility in Kansas interested the press and from there the police ended the great Golden insurance conspiracy of 1914-1915.

Copyright © 2020 The Oredigger Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.