Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, elected just six months ago, has been indicted on federal charges of insurance fraud.
A federal grand jury today issued a 38-count list of charges against Beck that include wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering, in connection with an association he established to provide insurance to high-risk residential property, according to the indictment and a news report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Beck, whose office oversees Georgia's Board of Workers' Compensation, allegedly encouraged friends to start companies and send the invoices to his Georgia Underwriting Association. Beck then funneled money to himself through two companies he controlled, even using some of the funds to bankroll his campaign for insurance commissioner last year, prosecutors said.
Beck's lawyers said he would mount a vigorous defense against the charges.
Attorney Bill Thomas told the newspaper that Beck “acted legally and in good faith” in his position at the Georgia Underwriting Association.
“Under his leadership, for the first time in its history, GUA made millions of dollars of profits,” Thomas said. “We are also pleased to note that these allegations do not relate to Jim’s performance as the Commissioner of Insurance.”
Under state law, if Beck does not resign or ask to be suspended, the governor can act after 14 days. If the elected official chooses to remain in office, the governor must appoint a three-person commission to look into the charges and determine if they relate to his duties. If they find that they do, the governor must suspend the official and name a temporary replacement, according to the news report.
In an interview with WorkCompCentral in January, Beck said he planned to examine some potential changes to the Georgia workers' compensation system, including how insolvent carriers are handled, and how some claims disproportionately affect experience modification.
He also pledged to make the Insurance Department more transparent and responsive to consumers, and to double the penalties for fraud committed by insurance companies. According to the Atlanta newspaper, he has taken steps in that direction and has posted data on complaints against insurers.
Throughout the campaign last year, Beck was dogged by reports that he was under investigation and that he held full-time state jobs and private-sector jobs at the same time.
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