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Agent Charged With Fraud: Johnson Pocketed Insurance Premiums, State Official Says

May 7, 2007

By Larry Gierer, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.

May 8--If you've bought insurance from Pollyanna Johnson, you might not have insurance at all.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine announced Monday morning that Johnson has been charged with three counts of insurance fraud.

"She was taking premiums paid to her for property and taxicab liability and pocketing the money instead of forwarding the payments to an insurance company," said Oxendine who was visiting Columbus.

Johnson, 38, who is now being sought in New Hampshire, is part owner of Action Auto Insurance Agency in Columbus, but Oxendine said that Johnson appears to be the lone problem and her actions were unknown by others in the agency. He said Action Auto has cooperated with his office and Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson in every way.

"There is no reason," Oxendine said, "to believe any other agent did anything wrong."

The investigation into Johnson's business practices has been conducted over the last six months and she is alleged to have defrauded at least $200,000 from her clients.

Three organizations have been identified as victims of Johnson, who is also co-owner of Cabina-America, a risk retention group based in Washington, D.C. They are Top Dawg Taxi and Transportation of Athens, Ga., the Columbus Firefighters Association and the A-Cab Company of Phenix City, Ala.

"It blew my mind," said A-Cab owner Michael Peak. "If I'd had one accident with a serious injury, I would have lost everything. I paid her more than $61,000 and for 11 months my 52 cabs were uninsured."

He said he has filed two accident cases that weren't covered, and a third may be without coverage. "I don't know if any money has been paid on that last one or not," he said.

What really hurts, said Peak, who has owned his company for about 30 months, is that he considered Johnson "a friend."

"When she began Cabina-America, I helped her," Peak said. "I was there for her."

He and others thought they had insurance with National Insurance. "I even had a policy number," he said. "Just no policy."

The problem first came to the attention of Oxendine's office after an accident involving Top Dawg Taxi. A Stone Mountain, Ga., man was hit by a cab and seriously injured. It was then that Top Dawg discovered it had no coverage and was liable.

"Something like that can destroy a company if it doesn't have the money to pay," Oxendine said.

It was during that investigation that the Columbus Firefighters Association and A-Cab Company discovered they had no insurance. The firefighters association was fortunate its building didn't burn down or some other accident befall it, Oxendine said. He said those agencies are now properly insured.

"This is very serious," Oxendine said, "and we want to find out if there are any other victims."

Oxendine said he believes more people have been taken advantage of and the price tag might go as high as $500,000. People should call Oxendine's office 1-800-656-2298 or Sheriff's Department investigator Don Hill at 706-653-4225 with complaints.

"Our investigation into these crimes is continuing,"

Oxendine said.

Insurance fraud is a felony with a penalty of 2-10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000. Oxendine said citizens should be careful when purchasing insurance.

"Ninety-nine percent of agents are good people, but you do have a few bad ones. If you haven't heard from the insurance company -- not your agent, but the company -- in a few weeks after purchase then something may be wrong," the insurance commissioner said.

Contact Larry Gierer at 706-571-8581 or lgierer@ledger-enquirer.com [mailto:lgierer@ledger-enquirer.com]

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Copyright (c) 2007, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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