FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 18, 1999
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that a former insurance agent has been sentenced to serve 18 months in jail for stealing a total of $168,934 from 15 different victims, including a church, several clergy, a widow, a widower, and his young children. Bartholomew Andrew Butler, 38, of Columbia, Maryland, pleaded guilty in Prince George's County Circuit Court to theft, criminal insurance fraud, and forgery. In addition to the jail sentence, Judge Joseph S. Casula ordered him to pay $48,937.45 in restitution upon his release from jail. Judge Casula also imposed a four and half year term of imprisonment, which he suspended pending successful completion of a 5 years probation.
According to the statement of facts delivered to the Court, Butler stole money which had been given to him to purchase life insurance, annuities, and other investment products for clients in Prince George's County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City. In some cases, Butler simply cashed checks that his clients gave to him for investment, and then spent the money. He did this to a Suitland widow, who had asked him to invest $30,000 that she received from a life insurance company on the death of her husband. To cover up his theft, Butler printed phony annual investment account statements, making it appear that he invested the money with a national brokerage, and that it was earning a return.
Using a similar ruse, Butler took checks for $10,000 from a Baltimore pastor, and another $7,000 from a church secretary, supposedly to invest in an annuity policy. However, Butler forged the endorsements of the annuity company, cashed the checks, and pocketed the money.
In other cases, Butler paid the insurance company only a fraction of the funds actually entrusted to him for investment. Butler was able to steal, for example, $29,500 of the $30,000 given to him to purchase annuity policies on behalf of 2 minor children whose mother had recently passed away. In each instance, Butler created fake documentation to make it look like the insurance company received the full amount.
"This man preyed on people who trusted him with, in some cases, their life savings," said Attorney General Curran. "Mr. Butler betrayed that trust in the worst way."
The insurance fraud charges arose from Butler's unauthorized use of other client funds. On several occasions, Butler withdrew money from client insurance accounts and used the money for his own purposes. Butler was also convicted of selling insurance without a license because he continued to hold himself out as an insurance agent after his license was revoked in December 1996.
The Insurance Fraud Division of the Maryland Insurance Administration investigated the case after it received a complaint from one of the victims. The Insurance Fraud Division is staffed by employees of the Insurance Administration, the Maryland State Police, and the Office of the Attorney General.