ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp called for the resignation of Georgia's insurance commissioner Wednesday after he was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering that stem from alleged crimes that preceded his election.
Kemp, in a letter to fellow Republican Jim Beck, asked him to resign his post as the state's Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.
"Your indictment severely undermines your ability to fulfill your official obligations to the people of Georgia," Kemp wrote. "I ask that you do what is right for our state and step down immediately."
Beck's attorney, William "Bill" Thomas, declined to comment on Kemp's letter. Thomas has said previously his client is innocent and that he intends to remain in office as he fights the charges.
Beck, 57, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the 38-count indictment that accuses him of devising an elaborate fraudulent invoicing scheme to defraud his employer out of more than $2 million over a five-year period just prior to his election in November.
At that hearing, a judge imposed a $25,000 bond and said Beck cannot leave the state without permission and banned him from conducting business with his former employer, the Georgia Underwriters Association, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .
The charges relate to Beck's time as general manager of operations for the GUA, which was created to provide high-risk property insurance to Georgia homeowners. He was elected by the GUA board of directors and served in that position from January 2012 until he was sworn in as insurance commissioner on Jan. 14 of this year.
The indictment says Beck used the money for personal expenses and to fund personal investment, retirement and savings accounts, as well as his statewide election campaign. The indictment also says he used the funds to buy and improve personal rental property and for personal state and federal income taxes.
Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Atlanta, on Tuesday said the investigation began about 10 months ago, before Beck's election as insurance commissioner, and was based on a referral from the Georgia inspector general.
"Evidence established the fact that Beck abused the trust of friends and his employer, GUA, in an elaborate scheme to enrich himself at GUA's expense," Hacker said.
According to the Georgia Constitution, whether Beck is suspended from office while under indictment depends on whether the charges are determined to relate "to the performance or activities" of that office.