ATLANTA (AP) – More than two years after being accused of defrauding his former employer of more than $ 2 million and facing federal charges, Georgia’s suspended insurance commissioner is set to stand trial.
Jim Beck, a Republican, was elected Commissioner of Insurance and Fire Safety in 2018 and then was indicted in May 2019, just months after taking office, with postal fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. The charges stem from Beck’s time as chief executive of the Georgia Underwriting Association, or GUA, before he was elected commissioner of insurance.
Jury selection is due to begin Monday for his trial, which is expected to last around two weeks.
Prosecutors say Beck asked friends and family to start bogus companies that billed GUA hundreds of thousands of dollars for work that was not done. Then, as the managing director of GUA, he approved the payment of invoices and had most of the money transferred to two companies he controlled. Prosecutors declined through a spokesperson to comment beyond what is in court documents.
Beck’s attorneys declined to comment, but wrote in a court file that he disputes that he intended to defraud GUA or cause him harm. They also wrote that there is evidence which “tends to place the story presented by the prosecution in a very different light.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, another Republican, called on Beck to step down a day after his indictment. Beck voluntarily suspended himself from his post the next day, saying he was innocent of the charges and that it would be inappropriate for him to resign. Beck continued to receive his salary from the state although the state also paid John King, who was appointed by Kemp to serve as commissioner during Beck’s suspension and who announced a candidacy in 2022 to keep his post.
GUA was established to provide high risk property insurance to Georgia homeowners. Beck was elected CEO by the association’s board of directors and held that position from January 2012 until he was sworn in as insurance commissioner on January 14, 2019.
At the same time, Beck also held controlling financial interests in two companies, Creative Consultants and the Georgia Christian Coalition, according to the indictment.
Beck carried out a scheme to embezzle GUA money from February 2013 to August 2018, according to the indictment.
He used the money for personal expenses and to fund personal investments, retirement and savings accounts, as well as his statewide election campaign, according to the indictment. He also says he used the funds to buy and improve personal rental properties and for state and federal income taxes.
Beck convinced four associates to form four separate companies with the stated purpose of providing services to GUA, according to the indictment. These companies are named in the indictment only as Companies A, B, C and D.
Beck then used an elaborate fraudulent billing system to produce false documents and, in his role as managing director, approved GUA payments to the four companies, the indictment says. He then sent fake invoices from Creative Consultants and the Georgia Christian Coalition to the four companies and ordered his four associates to pay the invoices from the funds they had been paid by GUA, investigators said.
In addition to being the CEO of GUA, Beck was also CFO of the Georgia Arson Control Program, or GAC, a non-profit organization that fights arson and celebrates the efforts of first responders, according to its website.
A replacement indictment filed in August 2019 accuses Beck of using more than $ 4,000 of GAC funds to pay for 1,500 campaign posters while running for insurance commissioner. He falsely told a GAC employee that the expense was related to GAC’s activities and authorized the use of the organization’s money for the signs, the indictment says.
The indictment that replaces Beck also accuses Beck of aiding in the filing of a false income tax return, claiming that he significantly overestimated business expenses and significantly underestimated the business profits of Creative Consultants and the company. Georgia Christian Coalition in declarations filed each year from 2015 to 2018.
The 43-count indictment against Beck includes 12 counts of wire fraud, 13 counts of mail fraud, 14 counts of money laundering and four counts of assisting in filing a false tax return.