ATLANTA — The Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday on fraud and money laundering charges.
Jim Beck was visibly nervous when he entered the courtroom, shuffling to the defense table in shackles and handcuffs. He turned himself in to authorities early Wednesday morning.
The U.S. Attorney handed down the indictment Tuesday and detailed a scheme in which Beck allegedly used shell companies and fraudulent invoices to steal approximately $2 million from insurance companies. Prosecutors say it was done before he took office in the fall of 2018.
"In beginning of 2013, Mr. Beck convinced four of his associates to create four separate businesses with the alleged purpose of supplying Georgia Underwriting Association with services,” said BJ Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Prosecutors painted a complicated scheme to cover up illegal payments Beck allegedly received.
The alleged crimes as detailed in indictment:
- Beck got payments through several companies
- Beck created shell companies to make fake invoices and redirect money given to him through other companies
"The grand jury has alleged in the indictment the creation of the companies were all suggested by Mr. Beck, the way the invoice was done was all suggested by Mr. Beck, and of course, there's allegations that he facilitated payments," Pak said.
The shell companies, prosecutors said, received money for home inspections and water damage mitigation, which they received from insurance companies using fake invoices.
“It involved multiple people it involved multiple modes of communication," prosecutors said.
Beck allegedly used the ill-gotten gains to pay his personal credit card bill, fund his investment and retirement accounts, and for use in his statewide election campaign. He also allegedly used some of the money to buy and improve a rental property and pay his taxes.
Prosecutors say the crimes happened between February 2013 and August 2018, while he was general manager of operations for Georgia Underwriting Association (GUA) -- an insurance association located in Suwanee that provided high-risk property insurance to homeowners in Georgia. Beck is still associated with the GUA.
In court Wednesday, Pak revealed the state has more than 100,000 pages of evidence related to the case. He also said they have recordings of Beck lying about the scheme to a family member.
Shortly after the court hearing, Governor Kemp issued a letter asking Beck to resign from his office.
The judge ordered Beck be released on $25,000 bond under these conditions: he have no contact with victims/witnesses and he relinquish any decision-making authority with the GUA. Beck agreed to those conditions.
If convicted on all charges, Beck faces between 8 to 10 years in jail.