Georgia’s insurance commissioner, Jim Beck, surrendered this morning to federal authorities. He was accused of fraud and money laundering.
What are the charges against Georgia’s insurance commissioner, Jim Beck?
On Tuesday, Beck was charged with a 38-count indictment. The accusation (laid down by a federal jury) is that Beck stole $2 million from his former employer. It was part of a plot to commit fraud against the Georgia Underwriter’s Association (GUA). Beck allegedly used the money to pay credit card bills and his taxes.
It is also alleged that Beck used the money to fund his 2018 campaign for state insurance commissioner. He funded much of his campaign for the GOP primary himself – partly using money stolen from the GUA.
The theft happened from February 2013 – August 2018. Beck was serving as general manager of operations for the Georgia Underwriters Association, which is the state-created marketplace for consumers in need of high-risk home insurance. The GUA is a place for homeowners who are having difficulties getting property insurance from standard insurance carriers to get the coverage they need. In August 2018, Beck left the GUA while in the midst of his campaign for insurance commissioner.
According to Beck’s lawyers, Beck denies the charges and intends to continue his work as insurance commissioner.
The fraud happened by way of four businesses that Jim Beck encouraged his friends to start. They would send invoices to the GUA, but prosecutors question whether the services were actually rendered. From there, Beck used two businesses (Georgia Christian Coalition and Creative Consultants) to direct the money back to himself. Both the Georgia Christian Coalition and Creative Consultants were under his control. At this time, it is not certain whether these friends knew the invoices were false or not right.
What does the insurance commissioner do?
The insurance commissioner’s job is to regulate the insurance companies. His role also includes overseeing the small business loan industry and acting as top fire marshal within the state. Essentially, the insurance commissioner’s job is to protect consumers from unfair practices within the insurance industry.
What happens next?
Should Beck not resign or request to be suspended, the governor can take action after a two-week waiting period if he believes the charges affected Beck’s position as commissioner. The governor would then assign a three-person team to investigate the charges. If this team finds that the charges are connected to his responsibilities as commissioner, the governor must suspend him and tap a temporary replacement. (This is according to state law.) Governor Kemp has so far not made it clear what he intends to do.
The Democratic Party of Georgia has called for Beck to resign.