Former Insurance Agency Owner Steve Standridge Indicted on 12 Federal Felony Counts

by Gwen Moritz  on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 5:16 pm  

Steve Standridge, shown in a file photo, operated one of the state's largest insurance agencies, which collapsed in 2010.

Steve Standridge of Mount Ida, once one of the top independent insurance agents in the country, has been charged with 12 federal felony counts, including bank fraud, related to fraudulent premium finance loans.

In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer also revealed that two of Standridge's former customers, Danny Wood of Idabel, Okla., and Gregory A. Hunt of Russellville, had previously pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud. Wood was sentenced on July 6 to 30 months in federal prison. Hunt is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 1.

A federal grand jury in Little Rock indicted Standridge, 55, on one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud, four counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, five counts of money laundering and one count of making a false statement to a financial institution.

The actual indictment was not immediately available, but a press release from Thyer's office said it alleges that Standridge conspired with Wood and Hunt to obtain bank loans ostensibly to pay the premium on insurance policies that either didn't exist or were promptly canceled. The proceeds of the loans were used "for purposes other than those set forth in the loan agreements," according to the press release, and some of the transactions involving the money from the loans were classified as money laundering.

No dollar amount was mentioned in the press release. However, the victim listed in the charge to which Hunt pleaded guilty on June 6 was Chambers Bank of Danville and the bank's loss was listed at more than $1.3 million. Wood, in his guilty plea on March 2, admitted helping defraud Chambers Bank out of almost $3.2 million and the Bank of Delight out of $125,000. 

Chambers Bank had already revealed some $5 million in losses related to Standridge when it filed suit against its insurance company in May 2011.

Standridge was named Professional Agent of the Year by the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents in 2006. But in March 2010, the Arkansas Insurance Department moved swiftly to suspend his license, eventually accusing him of 72 violations.

For state insurance regulators, the allegations of fraudulent premium finance loans were secondary to questions about the capitalization of defunct Gilbraltar National Insurance Co., which Standridge bought from Little Rock businessman Ed Harvey in 2009. The U.S. Attorney's press release made no mention of Gibraltar, and it was not immediately known whether any of the federal charges concerned that transaction.



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