Jim Beck, commissioner of the Georgia Insurance Department, speaks at a press conference about an insurance fraud bust in March. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: Emily Haney/emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: Emily Haney/emily.haney@ajc.com

Feds release new charges against suspended Georgia commissioner Beck

A federal grand jury has added more charges against suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, who was already facing accusations that he swindled his former employer out of $2 million, in part to fund his campaign for office last year.

The grand jury added an additional count of mail fraud and four new counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns for the 2014 through 2017 tax years.

The new indictment alleges that Beck used the U.S. Postal Service to receive money under fraudulent pretenses. Additionally, Beck, the charges say, listed more than $1 million worth of false business expenses on his tax returns for two of his businesses, Creative Consultants and Georgia Christian Coalition, in an effort to conceal the $2 million embezzlement scheme, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Beck, who took office in January after winning last year’s general election, was hit in May with a 38-count indictment accusing him of an elaborate scheme to steal from his former employer.

Gov. Brian Kemp suspended Beck a few days later, and the governor appointed longtime Doraville police Chief John King to serve as acting commissioner. King on Monday asked the members of the board of Beck’s former employer, the Georgia Underwriting Association, to resign.

Beck has denied the charges. While he is suspended and fighting the charges, Beck continues to receive a $120,000-a-year state salary.

“Jim strongly maintains his innocence, and he denies the new charges,” said William “Bill” Thomas, his lead defense attorney. “He does not intend to succumb to the government’s pressure to get him to admit to wrongdoing that he did not commit.

“He is justifiably proud of the work that he did at the Georgia Underwriting Association. Any accusation that he defrauded GUA or the Georgia Arson Control Program is false.”

Thomas added, “Jim looks forward to presenting his case to a jury and clearing his good name.”

U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak alleged in May that Beck, an ex-insurance lobbyist and former leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, used the stolen cash to pay personal credit card bills and taxes, and pump money into his 2018 campaign for insurance commissioner.

The evidence shows Beck lied to close friends he’s known for 25 years and a family member to get them to create companies to send invoices to his then-employer, Pak said. The invoices were often for work that wasn’t actually done, and Beck funneled the money back to himself, according to the indictment.

According to the new, superseding indictment, Beck served as the chief financial officer of Georgia Arson Control Program Inc. GAC is a subsidiary of the Underwriting Association and partially funded by it.

The program is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting arson and celebrating the efforts of Georgia’s first responders, the U.S. Attorney’s Office release said. Georgia’s insurance commissioner also serves as the state’s fire marshal.

The new indictment said that, in connection with Beck’s campaign for insurance commissioner, he fraudulently used GAC funds to pay for 1,500 campaign signs. It said that on Jan. 11, 2018, Beck received a $4,271 check from the program through the mail, in violation of mail fraud statutes.

The indictment also alleges that Beck aided and assisted in the preparation of false tax returns. The documents overstated business expenses and understated business profits for Creative Consultants and the Georgia Christian Coalition.

In an effort to conceal a $2 million embezzlement scheme, federal prosecutors said, Beck amplified business expenses to reduce his net business income. By inflating his business expenses by more than $1 million, Beck evaded income taxes due on the embezzled funds he received, the indictment says.

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