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Federal Grand Jury Indicts an Insurance Commissioner

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Richard B. Russell Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Richard B. Russell Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Atlanta.

A federal grand jury in Atlanta has indicted Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck on multiple fraud and money-laundering charges in an alleged scheme that has entangled the Georgia Christian Coalition, which Beck also heads.

The 38-count indictment, announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in Atlanta, accuses Beck of  embezzling more than $2 million from the Georgia Underwriting Association.

(Related: Key State General Election Results, for Agents)

Beck was the association’s general manager of operations, and also served as deputy insurance commissioner and chief of staff to former Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. Beck is accused of establishing multiple shell companies that “existed only to produce fraudulent invoices, collect payment for fraudulent invoices, and redirect payments … to Beck,” the indictment says.

Beck was elected insurance commissioner in November and took office in January. The indictment alleges that for at least five years before he was elected, Beck siphoned funds from the Georgia Underwriting Association — a private organization established by state law to provide high-risk property insurance to homeowners across the state.

The GUA is governed by a board appointed by the insurance commissioner. It collects premiums from its customers and issues assessments to association members that include every insurer authorized to write property insurance policies in Georgia.

The multifaceted scheme outlined in the indictment relied on companies Beck created and in which he held a controlling interest that billed the GUA for online home inspections, data scans and mitigation services for water damage that allegedly never took place. Beck allegedly offered several individuals — identified only by their initials in the indictment — as much as 10% of every payment processed for assisting in the schemes.

Beck attorney William “Bill” Thomas, a former federal prosecutor and principal of the W.H. Thomas Firm, said Tuesday that Beck “strongly denies the charges, and we intend to mount a vigorous defense.” Atlanta attorney Doug Chalmers of Chalmers & Adams will serve as co-counsel.

Thomas said that Beck is “justifiably proud of the work that he did at the Georgia Underwriting Association. Any accusation that he defrauded GUA is false.”

Thomas also insisted that Beck “acted legally and in good faith” and that, under his leadership, the GUA “made millions of dollars in profits.”

Beck is accused of engaging in multiple instances of wire fraud, mail fraud and money-laundering and then siphoning off proceeds of the alleged fraud schemes to pay thousands of dollars in personal expenses; fund personal investment, retirement and savings accounts; and to finance his statewide election campaign, the indictment alleges.

The insurance commissioner also allegedly used thousands of dollars to buy and improve rental properties he owns and to pay his state and federal income taxes, the indictment alleges.

Beck also allegedly redirected payments from the underwriting association to the Georgia Christian Coalition in what the indictment describes as “an effort to build up and improve” the coalition.

According to the indictment, Beck claimed the GUA board gave him the authority to channel its funds to the Georgia Christian Coalition through a shell company Beck created. The coalition then “falsely and fraudulently” billed for “advertising sponsorship[s]” and “sponsorship package[s],” the indictment alleges.

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