Georgia Insurance Commissioner indicted on felony fraud charges

Georgia Insurance Commissioner indicted on felony fraud charges

In the wake of Tuesday’s indictment by a federal grand jury on charges that he stole money from his former employer, State Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck says he will fight to clear “his good name.”

Beck faces 38 charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. The indictment alleges Beck conducted a wide-ranging scheme through several companies and the Georgia Christian Coalition, including fraudulent billing and the sale of false sponsorships to the GA Christian Coalition. According to the indictment, the money — said to be in excess of $2 million — was used to pay for personal credit card bills, income tax bills, retirement funds and to fund Beck’s statewide election campaign for Insurance Commissioner. Beck largely self-funded his primary campaign.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck

Beck, who is from Carrollton, was elected insurance commissioner in 2018 and began serving his first term in January of this year. He issued his statement through his attorneys William (“Bill”) Thomas of W.H. Thomas Firm, LLC and Douglas Chalmers, Jr., in a prepared press release.

Under Georgia law, Beck now has an option — he can remain in office, voluntarily resign or ask to be suspended while under indictment. If he remains in office, after a 14-day period, which may be extended by the governor, the governor must appoint a review commission, which then has 14 days to determine if “the indictment relates to and adversely affects the administration of the office of the indicted public official and that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected thereby,” according to the Official Code of Georgia.

At that point, the commission can recommend that Beck be suspended from office.

Beck is expected to surrender to U.S. Marshals today in Atlanta, according to U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

One of Beck’s attorneys, Bill Thomas, released the following statement on Tuesday: “Jim strongly denies these charges, and we intend to mount a vigorous defense. Jim is justifiably proud of the work that he did at the Georgia Underwriting Association (“GUA”). Any accusation that he defrauded GUA is false. He acted legally and in good faith. Under his leadership, for the first time in its history GUA made millions of dollars of profits. Jim looks forward to clearing his good name.”

In a press conference late Tuesday, Pak said the crimes took place between February 2013 and August 2018, when Beck left the Georgia Underwriting Association in the middle of his campaign for insurance commissioner. The prosecutor said the allegations don’t relate to Beck’s current job. However, he added that “holding a powerful position does not shield you from the (consequences) of your past criminal activity.”

The indictment states that at the time, Beck was the general manager of operations for Georgia Underwriting Association, a state-created marketplace based in Suwanee that provides high-risk property insurance to Georgia homeowners having trouble getting coverage. According to information in the indictment, Beck allegedly encouraged friends and associates to start four separate companies and send invoices to the Georgia Underwriting Association for various services. Prosecutors said they believe some of the invoices were for work that was never done and said that sometimes the GUA was billed for the same work by more than one company.

According to the indictment, the money would ultimately be funneled to Beck through the Georgia Christian Coalition and Creative Consultants, both of which are based in Carrollton and Beck held controlling interests in. According to the indictment one company “had no employees, existed only to produce fraudulent invoices, collect payment for fraudulent invoices, and redirect payments received to BECK through GA Christian Coalition.”

Throughout the indictment, owners of the businesses are identified only by their initials. There are also ties to Raleigh, North Carolina in the investigation, according to the indictment.

According the to the Georgia Constitution, when a public official is indicted, the Governor will appoint a panel to determine if the official should be suspended (with pay) until the trial concludes:

The Constitution also states:

Paragraph I. Procedures for and effect of suspending or removing public officials upon felony indictment.

(a) As used in this Paragraph, the term “public official” means the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the State School Superintendent, the Commissioner of Insurance, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Labor, and any member of the General Assembly.

(b) Upon indictment for a felony by a grand jury of this state or by the United States, which felony indictment relates to the performance or activities of the office of any public official, the Attorney General or district attorney shall transmit a certified copy of the indictment to the Governor or, if the indicted public official is the Governor, to the Lieutenant Governor who shall, subject to subparagraph (d) of this Paragraph, appoint a review commission. If the indicted public official is the Governor, the commission shall be composed of the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the State School Superintendent, the Commissioner of Insurance, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Commissioner of Labor…

c) Unless the Governor is the public officer under suspension, for the duration of any suspension under this Paragraph, the Governor shall appoint a replacement officer except in the case of a member of the General Assembly. If the Governor is the public officer under suspension, the provisions of Article V, Section I, Paragraph V of this Constitution shall apply as if the Governor were temporarily disabled. Upon a final conviction with no appeal or review pending, the office shall be declared vacant and a successor to that office shall be chosen as provided in this Constitution or the laws enacted in pursuance thereof…