Thursday, August 23, 2012

Insurance agent charged with embezzlement of Youth Football League in North Carolina


A Yadkinville insurance agency owner, who is also the longtime commissioner of a regional youth football league that works with schools, has been charged with making a false statement in connection with insurance for the league, according to the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Charles Everett Collins, 69, of St. Andrews Court, Yadkinville, turned himself in Sunday to the Yadkin County Sheriff's Office and was arrested. He is scheduled for his first appearance in Yadkin County District Court today.

Collins is also charged, in matters unrelated to the football program, with one count of embezzlement by an insurance agent and one count of common law forgery. Department of Insurance investigators said that Collins forged a signature on a $4,452 refund check that was issued to a policyholder and deposited the money into the agency's bank account without the policyholder's permission.

The charge of making a false statement is in connection with the Yadkinville Sertoma Club's football program, which fields teams in cooperation with school systems in Alleghany, Ashe, and Wilkes counties and the town of Elkin. Some of the school systems have teams for younger players, and some field only middle school teams that correspond to the respective high school team conference.

That means a player can play through the Sertoma league in middle school, and then face teams largely made up of the same opposing players when the youth gets to the high school level. The high school teams are offered by the school systems.

Last February, the Alleghany County Board of Commissioners asked the Department of Insurance to investigate whether the Sertoma league had valid liability insurance. A number of complaints had been raised about how the program was operating.

Investigators with the Department of Insurance said Collins signed and issued a certificate of insurance for the football program when he knew the policy had been cancelled for months because of non-payment of premiums.

Collins, owner of Moore-Moxley Insurance Agency, as well as the commissioner of Sertoma football for about 30 years, said Tuesday that he's still commissioner and that the program's insurance was valid.

"Yes, it was," he said. "We had insurance in place, but we just made an invalid policy number."

He referred other questions to his Yadkinville attorney, Tom Fagerli, who did not respond to a phone message.

It appears the players had accident insurance, which would have covered them for football-related injuries, said Alleghany County Manager Don Adams.

With games being played at high school football fields, it could have become a complex legal matter as to whose liability insurance would have paid, for instance, if a spectator were injured.

Some of the local schools had their own liability coverage in place for the Sertoma league, but all were told that Sertoma provided a liability policy when it did not, said Alleghany County Schools Superintendent Jeff Cox.

The issues surrounding Sertoma football have been long simmering, but have come to a head at a crucial time for the program, which saw its commissioner arrested the day after the season began.

Superintendents from Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Elkin have been talking to one another this week and decided to continue with the program this year, said Ashe County Schools Superintendent Travis Reeves.

They're handling their insurance directly, with the schools pooling the money and paying the premium to Nationwide, Cox said.

Yadkin County Schools had middle school players in Sertoma football in 2011, but pulled out for this season because of concerns about how the program was being handled.

Yadkin Superintendent Stuart Hobbs said he asked Collins in September 2011, a few weeks after the season began, about whether the program had liability insurance. Hobbs said Collins showed him a certificate showing proof of liability insurance.

The arrest warrant says that on Sept. 6, 2011, Collins issued a certificate of insurance when the policy had actually been cancelled in February 2011. "The defendant issued and signed the certificate as valid knowing the certificate contained misinformation," the warrant said.

"We had a lot of concerns about the transparency, accountability," Hobbs said. "There were questions about liability insurance, questions about funds. The bottom line was we had questions about how the program was being administered and run and we asked for clarification and did not get clarification that suited us."

Superintendents for Alleghany County Schools, Ashe County Schools, Elkin City Schools and Wilkes County Schools had questions as well, and directed them to Collins in a Jan. 17 letter. They raised issues about the insurance coverage, as well as gate money that was not documented with receipts.

Collins agreed to keep better financial records.

In February, two coaches appeared before the Alleghany County Board of Commissioners to talk about the concerns. That's when commissioners instructed the county attorney to ask the Department of Insurance to investigate.

In a telephone interview shortly after that meeting, Collins said the coaches were trying to form their own league.

"All these people that are trying to overthrow us; they're on a witch hunt really," he said.

The Charles Everett Collins who is commissioner of Sertoma football is not the same Charles Collins who is in prison for financial crimes related to North Wilkesboro Speedway. The man in prison is Charles W. Collins Jr., and is not related to the insurance agent.

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