Suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck
ATLANTA (AP) — Prosecutors want jurors to conclude that suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was running a $2 million scam to bilk money from the property insurer he led before being elected.
Defense attorneys say Beck was actually an innovative executive who led the Georgia Underwriting Association to strong profits and that prosecutors don’t understand Beck’s innovations.
That’s how lawyers on Tuesday kicked off a trial for Beck in federal court in Atlanta.
The Republican was elected insurance and safety fire commissioner in 2018 and then indicted in May 2019, months after taking office. Beck is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Before he was elected, Beck was general manager of the Georgia Underwriting Association, an insurer of last resort that covers property owners unable to buy insurance on the regular market. Those regular insurers are co-owners of the GUA, sharing risk of any losses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sekret Sneed told jurors in her opening argument that Beck, a cousin and some friends created a series of shell companies that billed GUA for bogus services, with Beck ensuring invoices got paid even though some employees say they never saw any work product. Then the intermediaries sent money back to Creative Consultants or the Georgia Christian Coalition, both of which Beck controlled.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, called on Beck to resign a day after his indictment. Beck voluntarily suspended himself from office but said he was innocent and not resigning. Beck has continued to collect a state salary of about $200,000 even as the state has also been paying John King, appointed by Kemp to serve as commissioner, King is running in 2022 to keep the job.
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