ST. GEORGE — A Southern Utah insurance agent who collected commissions from more than two dozen fraudulent life insurance applications pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges Thursday, while more than 20 felonies were dismissed.
Michael Craig Nebeker, 39, of Santa Clara, pleaded guilty to two second-degree felony counts of a fraudulent insurance act and one count of the same charge that was amended to a third-degree felony. He also pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and seven counts of identity fraud crimes, each a third-degree felony.
The state agreed to drop 22 charges, including one second-degree count of pattern of unlawful activity and one count of a fraudulent insurance act, along with 20 third-degree felony counts of identity fraud crimes in exchange for a guilty plea.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Fraud Division of the Utah Insurance Department into allegations the defendant collected commissions from more than two dozen fraudulent life insurance applications he wrote on individuals without their knowledge, by either forging the individual’s signatures or electronically signing the documents himself. The fraud took place from October 2017 through December 2017, court records indicate.
Using false addresses and fake bank account information, Nebeker would receive commissions upfront when the fraudulent applications were filed.
The scheme was discovered after individuals told insurance companies that they hadn’t requested, applied for or signed life insurance policies. Investigators say they all lived in Southern Utah. The companies affected include Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance, Columbian Life Insurance Company, Americo Financial Life and Farm Bureau Insurance.
Charges were filed Sept. 21, 2018 by Assistant Attorney General Daryl L. Bell in 5th District Court.
In the defendant’s statement in support of the guilty plea filed with the court, Nebeker admitted to “intentionally or knowingly” defrauding Americo Financial Life by devising a scheme to obtain fees for professional services under false pretense or fraudulent representation and submitting 10 insurance policies on individuals without their knowledge.
The defendant also admitted to defrauding Columbian Life Insurance Company by devising a similar scheme. He admitted to writing eight insurance policies without the knowledge of the insureds and wrote another nine policies under Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance Company using the same fraudulent scheme.
The statement also says Nebeker admitted to forging 28 life insurance applications between Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, and using the personal identifying information of seven different people to apply for seven life insurance policies without their consent or knowledge in July of that same year.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Nebeker is to pay $22,800 in restitution, another $4,950 to the State of Utah Department of Insurance Fraud Division to cover the cost of the investigation and complete a moral recognition course.
The defendant also agreed to complete 2,000 hours of community service in lieu of the state’s recommendation of 365 days in jail, and will be placed on the Utah White Collar Crime Registry as is required for anyone convicted of certain crimes, including second-degree felony fraudulent insurance act.
District Court Judge John J. Walton ordered that a presentence investigation report be completed by Adult Probation and Parole prior to the sentencing hearing scheduled to take place in 5th District Court Jan. 30.
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