ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A FOX 5 I-Team investigation of the recent indictment of Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck shows the key people involved in the alleged schemes to steal money were longtime friends and a family member of Jim Beck.
One couple told us Jim Beck betrayed them. A cousin hopes Beck will prove his innocence. Both the couple and the cousin deny any knowledge of the scheme. Another company owner refuses to talk.
A federal grand jury indicted Beck on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. The 38-count indictment alleged that Beck stole more than $2,000,000 from his former employer, the Georgia Underwriting Association, during the five years just prior to Beck’s election to statewide office in November 2018.
Jim Beck was general manager of the legislatively created insurance company called Georgia Underwriting Association or GUA. A GUA source told us when Beck took over he began an ambitious project to survey existing and new homes insured by GUA. Some of that inspection and underwriting work is now at the center of the Beck indictment.
The companies were identified by the U.S. attorney only as companies A, B, C, and D. So, we began investigating.
The FOX 5 I-Team has learned Company A was Green Technology Services originally run out of a home in Temple, Georgia.
Matt Barfield admitted to us it was his company and Beck was his cousin.
Barfield told us the company was Jim Beck's idea. According to the indictment, Beck approached Barfield and told him he had a new way to "do home inspections" and wanted Barfield to handle "the books."
Barfield created invoices and submitted bills to Georgia Underwriting Association who would then make payments to various companies.
“10 percent of the funds being kept by company A (Green Technology Services) The remaining 90% of the funds flowing to Creative Consultants, again, which the grand jury alleges was controlled by Jim Beck,” said BJay Pak the day the indictment was announced.
Barfield told me he thought it was all on the up and up; he trusted his cousin. He pointed out that he got a business license in Georgia when he started, later incorporated his company in Florida when he moved, and paid all his taxes.
"If I thought I was doing something wrong, do you think I'd open up a checking account. The FBI has every bit of it."
He added "I really thought a lot of Jim... it's all allegations, and I hope he can prove his innocence."
Company B in the indictment was Lucca Lu, set up and run by Sonya McKaig - a longtime family friend of Beck and his wife.
McKaig actually did work - examining home inspections to determine if GUA should raise premiums or change coverage on customer’s homes.
US attorney BJ PAK says GUA paid Lucca Lu a total of $908,000 and she kept a portion for her legitimate work, and then paid Barfield's company the rest - thinking it was his company that did the home inspections.
“The operator of company B (Lucca Lu LLC) believed - based on representations by Mr. Beck - that company A (Green Technology Services) was actually providing the inspections,” said the U.S. attorney.
Company C was Mitigating Solutions, operated by Sonya McKaig's husband Steve. McKaig believed he was doing legitimate work helping homeowners who had potential water damage claims.
GUA paid McKaig's company approximately $370,000. He took his portion, then sent approximately $325,000 back to Barfield's company - known as company A (Green Technology Services) in the indictment.
“Company A (Green Technology Services) kept 10% of that, the remaining portions went to Creative Consultants, which Mr. Beck had control over,” said US Attorney BJ Pak.
The McKaigs issued a statement saying they did "substantial, legitimate work" and "trusted (Jim) Beck" who "took elaborate measures to conceal from us his illegal scheme." They added: "His malicious and predatory actions have inflicted tremendous emotional pain on our family."
Beck's lawyer, Bill Thomas, responded that Beck and his wife "are deeply saddened that the McKaigs have been dragged into this unfortunate situation." Thomas added: "The Becks understand how people who so far have heard only the government's side of a story could become angry and could become convinced they were betrayed by a friend. But that's not the truth here"
The lawyer went on to say: “Once all the facts are known, this case will be viewed very differently.”
So, who operated the final Company D?
The indictment states in 2012 Beck approached a local businessman with a plan to make legitimate payments from GUA to Georgia Christian Coalition.
The indictment states Beck explained that the payments should pass through “another business entity.”
According to the Secretary of State's office in January 2013, a company called Paperless Solutions was incorporated in Bowden Georgia. The registered agent of the company, Steve Gradick.
Gradick is a well-known radio station owner in Carrollton. Gradick did not return our phone calls or respond to an email.
The FOX 5 I-Team has seen a copy of a federal grand jury subpoena that shows the grand jury wanted all records and correspondence between various companies alleged in the scheme and Paperless Solutions LLC.
The indictment alleges Beck told the company D owner (Steve Gradick) he could keep 10 percent of every payment that GUA made to company D.
In all, US Attorney Bjay Pak says the various schemes netted Beck more than 2 million dollars during a five-year period.
Beck has maintained his innocence. He's on paid leave pending the outcome of his trial.
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