Raleigh, N.C. — Three years after a helicopter crash killed a Franklin County deputy, the pilot has become entangled in a lawsuit over a deal to buy more helicopters.
Ben Barrick has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and faces civil suits in the May 2004 crash that killed Deputy Ted Horton. A federal investigation revealed that metal fatigue caused the tailboom to fail, resulting in the fatal crash.
Officials have alleged that Barrick deceived the county, signing a secret deal with the former sheriff to put a faulty helicopter in service and burden Franklin County with liability.
The case didn't ground Barrick, who arranged a $1.1 million deal last year with Medstar Air Rescue to buy nine helicopters from Houston-based Barken International Inc. Medstar provides air ambulance services in Laredo, Texas.
Barken owner Herman Ventor said Barrick and Medstar still owe him $550,000, and he has been trying to repossess the helicopters. That prompted Barrick to file suit this year, alleging that Barken sold him faulty aircraft and failed to turn over the Federal Aviation Administration certificates for the helicopters.
Ventor said he didn't know Barrick's background when he made the deal.
"I was shocked. I went, 'Oh man, there goes my money,'" he said.
He said he couldn't transfer the FAA papers because Barrick hasn't had a pilot's license since the Franklin County crash and still owes him money.
"It's just too much. All this fraud, and he gets away with it," he said. "I think he's a scam artist."
Barrick and the helicopters are now nowhere to be found, Ventor said.
WRAL tried repeatedly to contact Barrick but was unable to locate him. Calls to his Texas attorney weren't returned.