PORTSMOUTH, VA – Joseph E. Barnes, of Suffolk, received two a two year sentence upon pleading guilty to charges of obtaining money by false pretense, in Portsmouth Circuit Court on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015.
Beginning July 2005 until May 2014, Barnes made monthly visits to Anitra Hawkins, of Portsmouth, collecting $30.95 directly for a term life policy. But instead of forwarding the premiums to the company he represented, Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company, Barnes pocketed the money. Hawkins had purchased an industrial policy, not as common as in the past; the industrial policy involves agents selling policies door to door, collecting weekly or monthly premiums directly from the policy holder. Once money was collected, a receipt book is often signed by the agent accounting for the money collected.
When Hawkins contacted Columbian Mutual with a question about her policy in 2014, she was advised that there was no policy under her name in effect. This initiated an investigation by the State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance and the Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud program. The investigation reveled that while Mr. Barnes’ employment with Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company ended in 2009, he continued to collect payments from Ms. A. Hawkins.
While Columbian Mutual returned all the premium payments to Ms. Hawkins, Mr. Barnes surrendered his insurance license and began paying restitution to the insurance company.
It is important to remember that consumers should periodically verify their coverage directly with their insurance provider, especially when making cash premium payments directly to an agent.