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Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering for allegedly stealing more than $2 million from his former employer, the Georgia Underwriting Association.
The 38-count indictment alleges that Mr. Beck stole the money during the five years just prior to his election to statewide office in November 2018, according to a statement issued Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Byung Pak for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.
“The accusations that were made against Commissioner Beck yesterday have no bearing on his service as an elected official to the people of Georgia,” a department spokesman said Tuesday in a statement. “The Commissioner maintains his innocence and he is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that every citizen of Georgia walks into a courtroom with when accused of a crime.”
Mr. Beck worked as the general manager of operations for the Suwanee, Georgia-based association, which provides high-risk property insurance to homeowners in Georgia, until he was sworn in as insurance commissioner on Jan. 14, according to the statement. In addition to premiums collected from its customers, the association is also funded by issuing assessments to its members, which include every insurer authorized to write any form of property insurance in the state.
While Mr. Beck served as general manager, he also maintained controlling financial interests in two businesses known as Creative Consultants and the Georgia Christian Coalition. Beginning in 2013, Mr. Beck allegedly talked four associates into forming four separate businesses to supposedly supply necessary services, including residential property inspections and water damage mitigation to the association, according to the statement. Mr. Beck then regularly approved “substantial” association payments to the four new companies through “an elaborate system of fraudulent invoicing, which included producing false documentation and concealing the truth from his four associates,” according to the statement. At Mr. Beck’s direction, the associates paid the fraudulent invoices from a portion of the money they had been paid by association.
“The grand jury seeks to hold Commissioner Beck accountable for taking advantage of his position at the Georgia Underwriting Association,” Mr. Pak said in the statement. “Beck allegedly pocketed a substantial amount of money to which he was not entitled while he was the GUA General Manager for Operations. To be clear, the grand jury has charged Commissioner Beck with crimes that occurred before he was elected to his current public office.”
“Jim strongly denies these charges, and we intend to mount a vigorous defense,” William Thomas of W.H. Thomas Firm LLC in Atlanta, said Tuesday in a statement. “Jim is justifiably proud of the work that he did at the Georgia Underwriting Association. 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.”
“We are also pleased to note that these allegations do not relate to Jim’s performance as the Commissioner of Insurance where, among other things, he has led the fight against insurance fraud and for transparency,” Mr. Thomas added. “The allegations relate solely to his prior work experience at a private, non-governmental association for insurance companies. Jim looks forward to continuing his work as Insurance Commissioner protecting Georgia consumers.”
Spokespersons for the association and the Georgia governor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has asked Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck to resign his position after Mr. Beck was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering for allegedly stealing more than $2 million from his former employer, the Georgia Underwriting Association.