Friday, January 21, 2022

Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck convicted for $2.5m theft begins prison term

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Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck began a seven-year prison sentence Thursday, convicted earlier this year on 37 counts involving a scheme to steal more than $2.5 million from a state-chartered insurer of last resort.

Beck reported to a federal prison at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, after U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen in October sentenced him to seven years, three months in prison.

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Meanwhile, successor John King will be formally sworn in as insurance commissioner on Friday by Gov. Brian Kemp, even though King actually took the full powers of the office when Beck was convicted in July. Kemp appointed King, a Republican who is seeking a full term in 2022. If elected, he would be Georgia’s first statewide elected Hispanic official.

Kemp suspended Beck from office after his indictment, but Beck kept drawing a $195,000 yearly salary until he was convicted. King was running the office on an interim basis before the conviction.

Beck has filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but has yet to file any arguments about why his conviction should be overturned.

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Cohen, who lambasted Beck’s testimony in his own defense as “outrageous” and “incredible” and “a bunch of malarkey,” also ordered Beck to pay $2.6 million in restitution. The judge also said the former official must serve three years of supervised release after he gets out of prison.

Beck was under electronic monitoring and mostly confined to his home in Carrollton, west of Atlanta, between his conviction and reporting to prison.

The Republican was convicted on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and tax fraud in a scheme to channel more than $2.5 million from the Georgia Underwriting Association through a series of companies to his own bank accounts. Beck managed the state-chartered private insurer of last resort for years before he was elected insurance commissioner.

Although Beck denied guilt at trial, he told Cohen at sentencing that he was “completely and totally responsible” and that “I accept the jury’s verdict.”

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Federal officials began investigating Beck as he was elected statewide in 2018 as Georgia’s chief insurance regulator, indicting him months after the Republican took office in 2019. The investigation was capped by an eight-day trial that ended with jurors convicting Beck after less than two hours of deliberation.

Of the restitution, $2.26 million will go to Cincinnati Insurance Co., which repaid Georgia Underwriting Association for its losses. The remaining $358,000 will go to the IRS to pay for Beck’s tax evasion.

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