ATLANTA - A key witness in the Jim Beck trial says his family was devastated by how convicted Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck conned them into having a role in Beck’s elaborate theft scheme.
Steve McKaig says he still struggles with the damage Beck, one of his closest friends, did to him and his wife.
A federal jury convicted Beck on 37 counts of wire, tax, mail fraud, and money laundering last week.
McKaig said, "What Beck did was diabolical. And he did it to friends. Who does that?"
McKaig has survived the fear and sense of helplessness. He’s recovered from the sleepless nights and endless therapy.
But he can’t let go of the anger. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Anger aimed at one of his closest friends. Jim Beck.
The man he says conned him and his wife unwittingly into a criminal scheme to steal millions of dollars.
"This put him in a category of a master criminal. He played us. He played us," said McKaig.
In 2019, we first learned of Jim Beck's criminal scheme. A complicated invoicing plan involving 6 different companies, and four different family and friends conned into stealing more than 2.5 million dollars from the Insurance company Beck was running at the time called GUA.
GUA was a state-sponsored insurance company for people who couldn’t get insurance anywhere else.
Two of those companies were run by Steve and Sonya McKaig. His lawyer son, Ryan McKaig explains how it started.
"Your friend calls you and he says, my car is broken down. Do you mind giving me a ride to the bank, and he goes in and he robs the bank. You had nothing to do with that. But, of course, your caught up in it. That’s the way we felt throughout this entire experience," said Ryan McKaig.
Both Steve and Sonya McKaig were key witnesses against Beck.
Sonya McKaig told the jury that Beck’s wife, Lucy had been her best friend for 30 years. The two families drew closer when both wives battled breast cancer at the same time, and when the four of them began traveling together.
"I think it is a little over 10,000 pages showing the work we did," said Steve McKaig.
The morning we met Steve he had just left the FBI where he picked up 7 bankers' boxes full of documents detailing the work he and his wife had did for GUA under Beck’s guidance. 85% of the documents were created by Steve’s wife, Sonya, who did not want to talk publicly.
"She would come home and work late at night, she worked every weekend, she worked holidays," McKaig said.
Both McKaig’s had worked in the Insurance industry all their lives. Beck convinced them to set up their own companies to help GUA
Sonya updated insurance policies which led to raised premiums. Steve helped GUA save money on water damage claims. Both using data supplied by another of Beck’s creations, a company called Green Technology services.
"Everything they had ever heard about him was what a good man he was, what a devoutly religious person he was, when they go these opportunities, they were excited," said his son Ryan McKaig.
For two years, the McKaigs say they worked hard. Part of their job was to pass along invoices from the mysterious Green Technology services to GUA. They didn’t realize the company was a shell run by Beck’s cousin Matt Barfield.
Barfield testified when GUA paid him, he passed along 80% of the money back to Jim Beck. In cash.
"We were not part of any kind of scheme. We were victims of Jim Beck’s scheme," said McKaig.
McKaig said they first learned of the scheme when prosecutors, in a grand jury room, showed them how more than 2.5 million dollars ended up in Jim Beck’s pockets.
"We were absolutely horrified, Sonya started crying in the grand jury. Not for herself, her friend, oh no, this is what is going to happen to her now," said McKaig.
What happened was a two-week trial, more than two dozen witnesses, and a jury verdict of guilty on all 37 mail, wire, and tax fraud, and money laundering counts - in less than an hour and twenty minutes.
It was over. But the damage that was done still lingers.
"It's just the worst experience of my life. I'm sorry I had the misfortune of having Jim Beck as my friend. He's a dangerous friend to have," McKaig said.
Beck’s attorney Bill Thomas said they would have no comment on McKaig’s interview.
Beck is slated to be sentenced in October.
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