Georgia’s Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner, Jim Beck was indicted on Tuesday for allegedly embezzling more than $2 million.
The indictment is for 38 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. The U.S. Attorney’s office outlined a complex invoicing scheme to defraud Beck’s previous employer, the Georgia Underwriting Association between February of 2013 and August of 2018.
Beck took office in January 2019. The investigation began 10 months ago, as FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker explained in a Tuesday press conference. He said it started after a referral from the Georgia State Inspector General.
According to the indictment, Beck convinced four “associates” to create companies that would invoice the association for services like residential property inspections. Some of those services were rendered, some were not. Then, the companies, none of which had any employees, allegedly passed the majority of the money to other entities that Beck had a financial interest in: the Georgia Christian Coalition and Creative Consultants.
Beck apparently assured one of the associates that the process was “on the up and up.”
The money Beck allegedly acquired went to credit card bills, purchasing and improving rental properties, personal retirement and investment accounts, tax bills and payments to Beck’s campaign fund, “Jim Beck for Georgia.”
U.S. Attorney BJay Pak said while there’s no documentation of anything in the investigation past August 2018, “Holding a powerful position does not shield you from the sins of your past criminal activities. Justice and rule of law will catch up to you eventually. We expect Commissioner Beck to turn himself into the authorities by noon tomorrow.”
In response to a question, Pak suggested perhaps the activities stopped in August because Beck changed jobs and was unable to hold his position at the association any longer.
Regarding Beck’s elected office, according to Article II, Section III of the Georgia State Constitution, he could resign within 14 days. After that, the Governor will appoint a commission to decide whether Beck needs to be forced out of office or not. In either case, the Governor would appoint a new commissioner.
Communications Director for the Department of Insurance Brandon Wright said the accusations “have no bearing on [Beck’s] service as an elected official to the people of Georgia” and confirmed Beck “maintains his innocence and is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that every citizen of Georgia walks into a courtroom with when accused of a crime.”
Beck has until noon Wednesday to turn himself in to federal authorities.
The Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner regulates the insurance industry and manages the state’s fire safety strategies.