A former insurance agent charged with writing fraudulent policies in Mobile and Baldwin counties was sentenced to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $121,000 in restitution Jan. 6, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Richard Moore. Thomas Edward Burns, the owner of Tommy Burns Agency, LLC, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, admitting he collected insurance premiums from customers, but failed to pass the payments along to carriers. In “many” instances, the carriers canceled the policies for nonpayment and left individuals and their properties uninsured.
At the sentencing hearing, a Special Agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified that at least 51 victims had been identified. Five victims appeared at the sentencing hearing to testify about the impact of having their premiums stolen and their properties left uninsured. As part of the plea agreement entered into by Burns, the United States also required Burns to immediately surrender all professional licenses, including but not limited to all insurance and brokerage license(s), and to not seek reinstatement of those licenses.
Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Insurance Commission, officers of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation of this case. It was prosecuted in the United States Attorney’s Office by Assistant United States Attorney Jamie A. Wilson.
As Lagniappe reported in July, Burns first came to the attention of law enforcement in 2017, when he was charged with theft in state district court after writing more than $22,000 worth of checks to himself while he was employed as a manager by a State Farm agency in Mobile. Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich explained that case was dismissed in November 2017 after the detective in the case did not show up to court to testify.
Allegedly, unbeknownst to the DA’s office, the detective left the Mobile Police Department so he never received the subpoena. When Rich requested to continue the case, Judge George Hardesty declined and dismissed the charge against Burns.
But Rich brought the evidence before a grand jury, who returned separate charges of theft and insurance fraud against Burns the same year. In the state fraud charge, prosecutors allege Burns falsified a personal health insurance application after being denied coverage, submitting a second application in which he altered “his personal and health information as well as an altered/falsified Social Security number” which resulted in the loss or potential loss of at least $1,000 to Farmers Insurance.
A trial in that case was initially scheduled in November but has since been postponed, and a status conference is scheduled for March.
Information available from the Alabama Department of Insurance indicates Burns’ professional license was last renewed on Nov. 1, 2017 and was never suspended or revoked. The database currently lists the license as inactive due to its expiration on Oct. 31, 2019.
Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Insurance Commission, officers of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation of the federal case. It was prosecuted in the U.S. Attorney’s Office by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie A. Wilson.
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