ATLANTA - Suspended Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck surprised many by taking the witness stand in his fraud trial on Tuesday and revealing the name of a mysterious computer programmer.
Beck testified on the first day the defense had a chance to present its case. Federal prosecutors rested their case on Monday after presenting witnesses who contend Beck secretly stole millions from a company he ran before he was elected. The state-created insurance company is called Georgia Underwriting Association. Beck managed GUA before he took office as the state’s top insurance regulator in 2019.
Beck testified a separate company he controlled did legitimate extra work for GUA and told the jury he paid a computer programmer named Jerry Jordan large quantities of cash to do the data research for the job.
"The cash, that’s how Jerry wanted to be paid," Beck testified, although he said later that method of payment was "a little unusual."
After five days of testimony from some 20 witnesses, the prosecution painted Beck as the mastermind in a scheme to steal more than $2.5 million from GUA. The prosecution's key witness was Beck's own cousin, Matthew Barfield. He testified last week that, at Beck's direction, he set up his set up a company to bill GUA for home inspections. He told the jury that he thought Beck's company Creative Consulting did the actual inspections, he only did paperwork.
Barfield testified that when GUA paid him more than $1.2 million over several years, he paid Beck 80% of the money in cash. He said at times he would meet Beck at local fast-food restaurants to hand over bank bags full of cash.
"So, I was scared, you know, I was glad to hand it off and get rid… get it off my hands," Barfield told the FOX 5 I-Team on Thursday.
"I am notoriously unorganized and I thought it would be nice to have someone to backstop me," Beck said.
Beck wasted no time on Tuesday in telling his side of the story explaining those cash payments. He told the jury that he got the go-ahead from the then-board chairman of GUA, John Houser, to create a company to do home inspection research for GUA. But earlier in the trial, Houser testified he knew nothing about any of Beck's companies.
Beck told the jury he hired a man he had met at a restaurant named Jerry Jordan to write software programs to skim home inspection data from public databases. Beck said he initially paid Jordan $40,000 in cash. He said, later, he personally, manually entered the data Jordan collected into GUA computers for about three years.
"It allowed the company to rate property and, generally, in most cases, to get more money," Beck testified.
Beck told the courtroom that it was Jerry Jordan that wanted to be paid in cash, so when he took those hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from his cousin, he turned around and gave it to Jordan for all the work he did collecting data.
What makes Jordan "mysterious" is that the man Beck testified introduced him to Jordan died several years ago. Jordan has not testified during the trial and this is the first time his name has even come up in the nearly week-and-a-half long trial and his name is not on the witness list.
Beck is expected to be back on the stand again on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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