Georgia’s insurance commissioner faces federal charges of fraud and money laundering.
A federal grand jury in Atlanta indicted Commissioner Jim C. Beck, 57, on Tuesday. Prosecutors claim that over a five-year span, Beck defrauded the Suwanee-based Georgia Underwriting Association, which he served as general manager of operations, out of more than $2 million.
Beck allegedly used the money to pay off his personal credit card, fund personal investment and retirement accounts, pad his personal savings, fund his political campaign, improve personal rental property and pay his state and federal taxes.
The association was created under the Georgia Fair Access to Insurance Requirements law to provide high-risk property insurance to homeowners throughout the state.
The indictment claims 12 counts of wire fraud, 12 counts of mail fraud and 14 counts of money laundering.
Beck was elected in 2018 after serving as chief of staff for previous Insurance Commissioner Ralph T. Hudgens. He also was the deputy commissioner under Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. Beck also had a controlling financial interest in the Georgia Christian Coalition and in a business known as Creative Consultants, both based in Carrollton.
The Republican nominee, Beck won 50.37% of the total in a three-way race in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election, defeating Democrat Janice Laws, an insurance agent, and Libertarian Donnie Foster.
Beck carried Walton County in a landslide, as most Republicans did last fall. He got just under 76% of the vote.
The indictment claims Beck persuaded four associates to create companies that had no purpose but to collect payment for fraudulent invoices and redirect payments it received to Beck.
“We intend to mount a vigorous defense,” William “Bill” Thomas, a defense attorney representing Beck, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “Jim looks forward to continuing his work as insurance commissioner protecting Georgia consumers.”
Thomas, a former federal prosecutor, said the GUA was profitable under Beck for the first time.
“We are also pleased to note that these allegations do not relate to Jim’s performance as the commissioner of insurance.”
If Beck does not resign or ask to be suspended, Gov. Brian Kemp after a two-week waiting period may appoint a three-person commission including Attorney General Chris Carr to determine whether Beck should be suspended.