JoAnn and Jonathan Hardin pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding a Henry County woman of more than $150,000 in insurance funds intended to rebuild her home.
Photo: Henry County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Henry County Sheriff's Office

Georgia couple who ran insurance scheme ordered to pay $150K to fire victim

A judge has ordered a fraudulent insurance adjuster and her husband to pay back the $150,000 they stole from a Henry County woman who lost her home in a fire.

JoAnn and Jonathan Hardin pleaded guilty Friday in the scheme that defrauded Nikki Redmond and her adult son Jamie of the insurance money intended to help them rebuild after the January 2017 blaze. Some of the proceeds, officials said, funded a $3,000 night at an Atlanta strip club and other personal expenses.

Redmond and her son, who is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair, escaped the blaze, but their McDonough home was destroyed. The next day, prosecutors said JoAnn Hardin reached out to offer help, claiming to be a public insurance adjuster. 

"She said, 'Nikki, I understand exactly what you are going through, and we will help you,’" Redmond told Channel 2 Action News

Hardin brought in her husband as a contractor, but prosecutors said she did not disclose their relationship to Redmond. Within months, the Monticello couple had stolen more than $150,000 in insurance money from Redmond using forged documents and falsified invoices, according to John King, who was sworn in Monday as Georgia’s insurance commissioner.

RELATED: King new insurance chief, Georgia’s first Hispanic statewide official

In a record of invoices obtained by Channel 2, the Hardins billed for a $25,000 administrative fee and another $4,400 to get a building permit. They charged nearly $30,000 to demolish the charred building, more than twice what Redmond’s insurance company had authorized. Another $4,500 went to winterize the family’s pool.

Jonathan Hardin was tasked with managing the work, but an investigation found he is not a licensed contractor, a spokesman for King’s office said.

Instead, state and county prosecutors accused the Hardins of taking $50,000 of the insurance money in cash withdrawals. In addition to the $3,000 strip club bill, the investigation showed they spent $30,000 at restaurants and hotels, according to King. 

The couple was arrested Jan. 30, 2018, and charged with insurance fraud, identity fraud, forgery, theft by conversion and operating as a residential contractor without a license. 

"I'm sick. I feel stupid,” Redmond told the news station at the time of their arrests. “I've been deceived and taken advantage of and I feel violated. Everything you can think of.”

After entering their pleas Friday in a Henry County court, the Hardins were sentenced to 10 years probation to include 100 hours of community service. As conditions of their sentence, both must take theft classes and neither may contact the Redmond family. 

King’s spokesman said Redmond has already received the $150,000 in restitution as ordered by the judge. 

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