Trial: Suspended Georgia insurance chief convicted of fraud

Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — A jury convicted Georgia’s suspended insurance commissioner of all 37 counts of fraud and money laundering against him on Thursday afternoon to cap a two-week federal trial, swiftly returning the guilty verdicts after the day’s closing arguments.

The suspended commissioner, Jim Beck, was convicted of charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and tax fraud by jurors in federal court in Atlanta. Beck had been indicted months after taking office in 2019.

Earlier, prosecutors presented evidence at trial that Beck had orchestrated a scheme to embezzle more than $2 million from the Georgia Underwriting Association. Beck had managed the state-chartered private insurer of last resort for years before he took office.

Beck took the stand in his defense during the week. He had testified that subcontractors he controlled provided valuable data that helped GUA increase its profits. However, prosecutors argued the companies did little real work.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8. The judge ordered Beck confined to his home in Carrollton, west of Atlanta, while awaiting sentencing save for court appearances and outings to receive medical care.

Trial testimony stretched over nine days before Thursday’s closing arguments.

After federal prosecutors had dismissed six counts, jurors were told Thursday to consider verdicts on 37 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and tax fraud.

Prosecutors argued at trial that the evidence showed Beck stole more than $2 million from the state chartered insurer of last resort that he managed, dreaming up a scheme to funnel money to himself through a series of companies, but not actually providing many of the services that he told investigators he performed.

“The evidence makes completely clear that Jim Beck … is a thief,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Gray had said at trial. “He is an ordinary, plain, fast talking — and rich — fraudster.”

But defense attorney Bill Thomas had repeatedly told jurors that investigators didn’t understand the insurance business and that prosecutors hadn’t provided enough evidence to merit a conviction. He had told jurors “the government just has it wrong in this case” because Beck’s work transformed GUA from a longtime money-loser to a strongly profitable entity.

“A man who takes a company from worst to first — when in 40 years that company didn’t make money — can’t have an intent to harm or deceive the company,” Thomas said.

Prosecutors used their closing arguments to again attack Beck’s credibility, arguing he had concealed his financial interest in two companies, Green Technology Services and Paperless Solutions, that were doing work for GUA. They pointed to an email that Beck drafted laying out how the trail of payments ultimately reached him.

The defense argued that Beck’s work provided important data that allowed GUA to charge higher premiums and pay less to reinsurers to share in its risk. Beck had testified that a man named Jerry Jordan was the computer programmer who wrote the programs that collected that data. Beck also testified there weren’t any withdrawals from his bank accounts to pay Jordan because he paid him in cash he had accumulated in a safety deposit box and at his home.

Beck told jurors he didn’t know where Jordan is today and had no correspondence to prove his relationship.

On Thursday, retired IRS investigator Bill Bruton said he examined Beck’s bank accounts from 2014 to 2018 and concluded he reported around $880,000 of income those years that was never deposited in a bank and was presumably available as cash.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Recent Columbus Forecast Updates

More 7 Day Forecast

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

Trending Stories