Lawsuit-recruiter settles fraud claim with feds

By Steve Korris | Mar 4, 2011

Robert Peirce

CINCINNATI (Legal Newsline) - Robert Gilkison, who instigated thousands of asbestos suits against CSX Transportation for a Pittsburgh law firm, cheated the government all the while.

On Feb. 24, he and wife Cynthia agreed to pay $200,000, to settle a civil claim that he fraudulently collected $278,348.61 in Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits.

U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart wrote, "Despite telling the RRB that he received only $400 a month, Mr. Gilkison received hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in additional compensation each month."

U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith of Cincinnati entered judgment imposing a lien on his home in Maysville, Ky. He can keep the home if he pays $20,000 now and $1,000 a month for 15 years.

The settlement does not preclude criminal prosecution or Internal Revenue Service action.

Gilkison worked for the firm of Peirce, Raimond and Coulter, recruiting United Transportation Union members to sue CSX for exposing them to asbestos.

Gilkison had worked for the railroad from 1962-1989.

In 2009, jurors in federal court at Wheeling, W.Va., cleared him of civil fraud claims that CSX brought against him and the Peirce firm.

In the course of his defense, however, he exposed his disability fraud.

Prior to trial, CSX lawyer Marc Williams of Huntington wrote that the Peirce firm tried to minimize Gilkison's importance.

Williams wrote that the benefits Gilkison received beyond his official pay demonstrated a different kind of employee.

He wrote that the firm did not monitor Gilkison's spending as long as it was used for promotion of the firm.

At trial, CSX lawyer Robert Massie of Huntington asked Gilkison if he was paid $400 a month, and Gilkison said yes.

Massie said, "The reason for that was so that you could keep your railroad retirement pension, correct?"

Gilkison said yes.

Massie said, "You got a few other things for working for the Peirce firm as well."

He asked if the firm paid his wife's insurance, and Gilkison said yes.

Massie asked if the firm paid his health insurance, and Gilkison said yes.

Massie asked if the firm gave him an American Express card for expenses related to business, and Gilkison said yes.

Massie asked if he told Peirce he wanted a Cadillac.

Gilkison said, "I knew we had to go out all over the country in these union meetings and I wanted a front wheel drive and Cadillac had that front wheel drive car and I wanted that to drive."

His testimony foreshadowed the civil complaint that U. S. Attorney Stewart filed on Feb. 24, with the settlement already in place.

Stewart wrote that Gilkison applied for disability benefits in 1989, after 27 years with the railroad.

He wrote that Gilkison submitted regular reports stating he received $400 a month, first from Law Firm A and then from Law Firm B.

Law Firm A is Burge and Wettermark of Birmingham, Ala., and Law Firm B is Peirce's firm.

Stewart wrote that in each report, Gilkison stated he received no free meals, transportation or other special earnings.

"Despite their promises and representations to the RRB, the Gilkisons were earning far in excess of the $400 a month allowed by the RRB," he wrote. "These earnings continued from 1990 to 2005 during Mr. Gilkison's employment at both Law Firm A and Law Firm B."

He wrote that Gilkison received health insurance, a fully insured Cadillac, payment for all car expenses, and an auto allowance of $1,000 a month from Law Firm B.

He wrote that in addition to his salary, Gilkison received more than $167,000 from Law Firm B between 1997 and 2005, including over $96,000 for cash expenditures.

He wrote that the firm reimbursed Gilkison for motel rooms, drinks, a home office, a car phone, and game tickets for University of Kentucky basketball and Cincinnati Bengals football.

He wrote that Gilkison made numerous false statements and, at times, so did his wife.

The Gilkisons signed a stipulation on the same date, waiving defenses to any criminal prosecution or administrative action.

They agreed that the stipulation was not punitive in purpose or effect.

The lawsuit in Wheeling continues, without Gilkison as a defendant.

Stamp plans to hold trial on a separate fraud claim in the same case, with radiologist Ray Harron of Bridgeport defending himself alongside the Peirce firm.

Stamp granted summary judgment to the firm and Harron in 2009, but federal appeals judges in Richmond, Va., reversed him.

They directed Stamp to allow CSX to amend its complaint so it can allege fraud in the filing of 11 asbestos suits rather than one.

Stamp has set a status conference for March 7.

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