Jim Beck’s cousin says he’s by him
The suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s cousin Jim Beck spoke to the FOX 5 I team during Beck’s federal trial, according to him.
ATLANTA – A key witness in the fraud case against suspended insurance commissioner Jim Beck said he was still standing by his cousin.
Matthew Barfield spoke exclusively to the FOX 5 I team at his booth on Thursday and said he had done nothing wrong. He testified in the courtroom that he drew up hundreds of thousands of invoices from salespeople he had never met, and when he was paid by Beck’s company, he gave 90 percent of them back to Beck, mostly in cash. But outside the courtroom, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
“I just have to sit in the courtroom and testify against my own family,” said Barfield, the hardest part of the testimony.
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Three testify during the Jim Beck trial
A longtime friend of the suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck testified that he lied to him. The McKaig were close friends with Beck until they looked at the evidence federal investigators had gathered against Beck. Then the friendship ended with the McKaigs saying they had found out he had embezzled.
Barfield said after testifying that he gave Beck bags of cash from various vendors for five years.
“Never, I’ve always trusted Jim and he never gave me a reason not to trust him,” Barfield replied when asked if he was ever suspicious.
Steve McKaig previously testified that he and his wife were close friends with Beck and his wife, and the couples even vacationed abroad together. Beck still had to apply for the post of insurance commissioner at the time. He ran a company called GUA, or Georgia Underwriting Associates, a state-owned company that offered insurance to people who couldn’t get it anywhere else.
Steve McKaig testified that Beck hired him to help GUA policyholders who had water damaged their homes. McKaig testified that Beck told him that a secretive millionaire with a company called Green Technology Services funded all of the work he was involved in. Beck instructed that they would bill the insurer hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of a company, the testimony said. Then, they said, they mailed those checks to Beck.
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Testimony in the fraud proceedings against the insurance commissioner begins
The fraud and money laundering trial opened in federal court on Tuesday. Jim Beck is accused of defrauding a company he worked with of more than $ 2 million prior to his election.
Only later, when evidence was presented to him that federal investigators had gathered against Beck, did the friendship end with the McKaigs saying they had learned that Beck had been embezzled.
“I believed in Jim Beck,” said Steve McKaig on Wednesday, the second day of Beck’s trial in Atlanta federal court. “I thought he was an honest man, an honest man with great ideas for Georgia, and he was my friend.”
Barfield testified in court that he was Green Technology Services, not a millionaire, and had no clue about insurance. When asked if he knew he was doing something wrong, Barfield told FOX 5 “absolutely not”.
Barfield told the court that Beck had asked him to start a company that creates invoices to send to GUA for payment. It didn’t work. And he testified that 90% of that money went back to Beck, most of it of it is delivered in cash in bank bags at McDonald’s or other restaurants.
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Reporter: “The cash, there was so much cash given to Mr. Beck, didn’t that make you suspicious?”
Reporter: “Why not?”
Barfield: “Because like I said, Jim never gave me a reason not to trust him and I never thought otherwise.”
Prosecutors said the McKaigs and Barfield, who were not prosecuted, were part of Beck’s plan to steal more than $ 2 million from the Georgia Underwriting Association, an insurer of last resort that Beck managed before going to the Insurance and Security Fire Commissioner was elected in 2018.
Months after taking office in 2019, Beck was charged with postal fraud, wire transfer fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns.
MORE: Former Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck faced additional charges
Beck’s defense has yet to take their case. Lawyers argued Tuesday when the trial opened that Beck had not harmed the association but instead turned it from losses into profits. They argue that Beck was an innovator and that even if his methods were unconventional, there is no evidence that he wanted to harm the association. They also suggested that Green Technology Services provided useful data even when witnesses didn’t know about it.
Sonya McKaig testified that Beck asked her to start reviewing insurance applications for the association that writes insurance coverage for property owners who cannot find it in the normal insurance market. The state-licensed Georgia Underwriting Association is owned by state-regulated insurers who share their risks.
Both McKaigs testified that they did a real job, even though most of the bills for funds went to Green Technology Services.
McKaig said she checked information on claims so that GUA can calculate correct premiums. Beck directed her to include a separate bill from Green Technology Services on her bill each month. That amount was typically $ 28,700 per month, with Beckaig saying she asked to top up the amount by an additional 5% for himself.
ALSO SEE: Grand Jury Sues Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck
McKaig said she had never had contact with Green Technology or Barfield. Invoices for Green Technology were emailed by Beck from his personal email address, which Sonya McKaig said Beck instructed her to use for correspondence. After she was paid by GUA, Sonya McKaig said she would write a check to Green Technology, which she would mail to Beck at the GUA office marked “Personal and Confidential”.
“This was quite a significant amount of money that he received and, as a practical manager, he wants to make sure the money gets there,” said Sonya McKaig.
Steve McKaig testified that Beck asked him to call people who have made water damage claims and advise them on how to clean up and limit costly damage. Steve McKaig has created a website and tips sheets.
“People would be happy if someone called,” said McKaig.
MORE: The staff of then Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck closed the criminal case at the request of John Oxendine
But like his wife, Beck directed Steve McKaig to also bill GUA on behalf of Green Technology. Steve McKaig testified that Beck told him that GUA paid $ 200,000 to Green Technology to provide reinsurance against water damage. Reinsurance is when an insurer shares some of the risk with another person. Green Technology wasn’t a reinsurance company, which made the deal unusual, but Steve McKaig testified that Beck told him that Green Technology was owned by an unnamed wealthy investor who would take the risk in exchange for the money. Like his wife’s company, Beck would send Green Technology invoices to Steve McKaig to use in his own invoices. Steve McKaig said he would then write checks to Green Technology and mail them to Beck.
Both McKaigs said they never questioned Beck’s actions until prosecutors called them in front of a grand jury.
“I trusted him,” said Susan McKaig. “I trusted his wife. I had a feeling that there are no better people.”
Defense attorney Bill Thomas suggested the McKaigs didn’t see the full picture, but Susan McKaig said she’d seen enough: “We didn’t want any further contact.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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