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Jailed Okla. Sheriff Under Investigation by FBI For Other Crimes

The Associated Press

WILBURTON, Oklahoma (AP) - A county sheriff who is jailed on sexual assault charges is now under investigation by the FBI for other crimes, including an arson last November that destroyed his home, according to two law enforcement officials.

Latimer County Sheriff Melvin Holly, 63, has collected a partial settlement on an insurance claim from the fire at his rural Red Oak home. The rest is pending, an investigator said.

The fire was among several new revelations made by two FBI agents at a meeting of the Southeast Oklahoma Sheriff's Association, said a sheriff and an acting sheriff who attended the meeting, according to a report in The Oklahoman.

"They laid the whole thing out. They said there will be 27 counts total, including an arson charge for the fire," said Pittsburg County Sheriff Jerome "Snookie" Amaranto.

The FBI agents also told the group that prosecutors will add counts of mail fraud and wire fraud stemming from the insurance claim and for illegally selling guns across state lines, Latimer County acting Sheriff Ronnie Troxel said.

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said he could neither confirm nor deny whether any new counts will be added.

"Virtually any criminal case remains under investigation until trial," Sperling said.

Holly told investigators he was lured out of his house on a fake traffic call on Nov. 29, 2003. Upon returning, he found it engulfed in flames, Holly said.

The state fire marshal's office has questioned Holly's story "from day one," said Gene Wheat, agent supervisor for the fire marshal's office.

Wheat said he verified Holly's claim of being out of the house when the fire started. "But we never could verify that he got that call.

"It was really a suspicious deal on the sheriff's part from day one," Wheat said.

Holly's attorney, Warren Gotcher, said his client maintains his innocence. Gotcher said a federal prosecutor told him that investigators are looking beyond the alleged sexual assaults.

"They have not disclosed all of those things to me," Gotcher said.

Holly has been jailed since Oct. 19 without bail in a Muskogee jail on charges he sexually assaulted female inmates and employees. A federal grand jury Tuesday returned a 14-count indictment against him that could result in a life prison sentence.

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