ST. GEORGE —A Southern Utah insurance agent who admitted to collecting commissions from more than two dozen fraudulent life insurance applications was sentenced on 11 felony charges Thursday, where the judge made it clear there would be no more chances of leniency going forward.
Michael Craig Nebeker, 40, of Santa Clara, appeared in 5th District Court for sentencing after pleading 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 in December. 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.
Nebeker admittedly wrote over 25 applications for life insurance under multiple companies, including Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance, Colombian Life Insurance Company, Americo Financial Life and Farm Bureau Insurance by obtaining and then using the personal information of multiple individuals to apply for life insurance policies.
“The applications in question were all written without the person named on the applications permission,” Nebeker admitted to in the plea agreement signed by the defendant Dec. 12.
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.
The fraud took place from October 2017 through December 2017, and charges were filed Sept. 21, 2018, court records indicate.
Daryl Bell, assistant attorney general of the Utah Insurance Department’s fraud division, filed the charges and also represented the state during the hearing Thursday where, under the terms of the plea agreement, two prison terms of 1-15 years were suspended, as well as seven 0-5 year prison sentences.
The state was originally asking for a jail term of one year, but through negotiations agreed to forego the term of imprisonment in lieu of giving the defendant the ability to get started on making payments on the restitution, which would better serve the victims in the efforts of justice, Nebeker’s defense attorney, Douglas Terry, said.
While District Judge John J. Walton agreed to the arrangement, he also reminded the defendant that this isn’t his first case involving fraud, as there were similar charges that he was convicted of before.
Nebeker was ordered to pay a total of more than $22,800 in restitution to the State of Utah Department of Insurance to be divided between the agency and the four insurance companies. He was also ordered to complete 2,000 hours of community service and was placed on 36-months probation with Adult Probation and Parole.
“During the period of probation, you will not be allowed to be a fiduciary or to work in the insurance industry,” Walton said. “I assume that’s a foregone conclusion anyway.”
Nebeker was also ordered to complete a Moral Recognition Course and to register with the Utah White Collar Crime Registry within 45 days of sentencing and remain registered for the term of his probation.
The registry requirement applies to anyone convicted of certain second-degree felony charges involving fraud, including the two counts of fraudulent insurance act which Nebeker pleaded guilty to. The registry includes the defendant’s personal information as well as details of the crime.
As the hearing was winding down, Walton delivered a stern warning after reminding Nebeker of his previous case involving fraud.
“If you come before my courtroom again for a serious crime, or any crime for that matter, then you better have your bags packed because you’re going to jail,” Walton said.
Problems in Larimer County, Colorado
Nebeker also dodged a prison term in Larimer County, Colorado, after he pleaded guilty to four felony charges involving theft and fraud in January of last year.
In that case, the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop 72 other charges in exchange for the guilty plea, charges that were filed in March 2018 after the defendant was indicted by a grand jury.
Nebeker was sentenced to 30 days in the Larimer County Jail and placed on six years probation. He is also required to complete 120 hours of community service.
Nebeker moved to Larimer County and began working as the Northern Colorado sales manager for Family Service Agency, an insurance agency based in Utah, in early 2014 where he obtained personal information for most of the fraudulent policies through his involvement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Loveland.
The defendant slipped through the cracks when he returned to Utah and received his personal insurance license before the conduct in Colorado was discovered.
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