Georgia Insurance Commissioner indicted on dozens of fraud and money laundering charges

Long-time readers of this site may remember that I have a "special place" in my heart (more like in the pit of my stomach) for Ralph Hudgens, the now-former Georgia state Insurance Commissioner, ever since I read about this ugly incident way back in 2013:

“Let me tell you what we’re doing (about ObamaCare),” Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens bragged to a crowd of fellow Republicans in Floyd County earlier this month: “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

After pausing to let applause roll over him, a grinning Hudgens went on to give an example of that obstructionist behavior, this one involving so-called “navigators” who are being hired to guide customers through the process of buying health insurance on marketplaces, or exchanges, set up under the federal program.

“We have passed a law that says that a navigator, which is a position in that exchange, has to be licensed by our Department of Insurance,” Hudgens said. “The ObamaCare law says that we cannot require them to be an insurance agent, so we said fine, we’ll just require them to be a licensed navigator. So we’re going to make up the test, and basically you take the insurance agent test, you erase the name, you write ‘navigator test’ on it.”

Hudgens clearly thought that was a pretty cute way for state officials to obstruct and delay implementation of the program and to ensure that it doesn’t work well for Georgians. Judging from their reaction, his audience thought so too. The question is why he thinks such steps are necessary.

Sadly, Ralph Hudgens finished out his final term of office as the Georgia Insurance Commissioner without incident last winter. The Insurance Commissioner is an elected position in Georgia, and he was replaced in a close race last November by his former deputy Insurance Commissioner and Chief of Staff, a guy named Jim Beck:

Republican and former deputy insurance commissioner Jim Beck had a slight lead over Democrat and insurance agent Janice Laws in the state election to replace Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who decided not to seek re-election this year, opening up the playing field for the state’s top insurance post for the first time since 2010.

As of 12:30 EST, the Georgia Secretary of State’s election results showed Beck with 50.5 percent of the vote to Laws 46.9 percent, with the difference in votes between the two being just under 140,000.

Beck did end up winning the race after all, but as I noted at the time:

...During his public service, [GOP candidate Jim Beck] served as Deputy Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner for the State of Georgia, He was most recently chief of staff for Hudgens.

...In June, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Beck’s state work records had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

...and that was it. That was all the article had to say about Beck's records being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

Until yesterday, that is (via Joshua Sharpe & James Salzar of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution):

Feds: Georgia insurance commissioner used fraud to fund campaign

Republican faces 38 count indictment

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was accused Tuesday by a federal grand jury of stealing more than $2 million from his former employer.

The 38-count indictment charges Beck, an ex-insurance lobbyist and long-time leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, with fraud and money laundering in an elaborate scheme to defraud the Georgia Underwriting Association. With the stolen cash, the Republican allegedly paid his credit card bills and taxes — and even funded the 2018 campaign that landed him in office.

Beck’s, whose lawyers said he denies the charges, is expected to surrender to U.S. Marshals on Wednesday in downtown Atlanta, said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

...At the time of the alleged crimes, Beck was the general manager of operations for Georgia Underwriting Association, a state-created marketplace based in Suwanee that provides high-risk property insurance to Georgia homeowners having trouble obtaining coverage.

He allegedly encouraged friends and associates to start four separate companies and send invoices to the Georgia Underwriting Association for various services. Some of the invoices were for work that was never done, prosecutors believe.

Beck funneled money to himself through two Carrolton-based companies he controlled, the Georgia Christian Coalition and Creative Consultants, the indictment alleges.

...As the state’s insurance and fire safety commissioner, Beck regulates insurance companies, oversees the small loan industry and also acts as the state’s top fire marshal.

...Beck largely self-bankrolled his GOP primary campaign for insurance commissioner last year, outspending all opposition and winning an overwhelming victory in the May primary. Pak said Beck used “thousands and thousands of dollars” stolen from the Georgia Underwriters Association for the campaign.

Not much to add except to say that between this guy and Gov. Brian Kemp's extremely questionable "win" over Stacey Abrams, things don't seem to be very peachy in the Peach State.