Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - How well do you know your insurance agent and the company they serve?

KGVO recently spoke to Montana State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Troy Downing about two insurance agents in the state that have been charged with serious crimes.

Downing Cites Cases of Insurance Fraud in Montana

“You may recall a few months ago, we had charges against an insurance agent here in Helena, Mark Biegler, who basically was selling commercial insurance policies,” began Commissioner Downing. “Some of these were large premium policies with $20,000 plus in premiums, and he was putting the money in his pocket and not actually placing the insurance. Basically, he would write a fake policy and just thought he could get away with it thinking that there wouldn't be enough claims for his scheme to ever be shown.”

Downing said Biegler was taking huge financial risks with the funds that his clients entrusted to him that could have resulted in a financial disaster.

“He had some commercial clients there like big steel companies that were doing large municipal projects, building bridges and hospitals that had a certificate of liability insurance that was basically not worth the paper was printed on because it was all fake,” he said. “If there would have been a loss on one of those types, not only would it have hurt that company but probably put it out of business, and some of these are family-owned businesses that would have gone bankrupt, which just would have been tragic.”

Downing said Another Agent in Forsythe was Accused of a Similar Fraud

Downing also told a similar story about Rosebud Insurance and Kileen Hagedone.

“Rosebud Insurance in Forsythe was doing exactly the same thing,” he said. “What was interesting about this agent is that somebody would pay their whole annual premium upfront, and some of these are big high dollar premiums and put it in her pocket. And then she would start a payment plan with the insurance company. So, you know, collect a $20,000 premium and then just pay the $1,000 bucks a month or whatever the payment plan was, and sometimes she wouldn't be able to make those payments.”

Downing said the woman’s actions put many of her customers at severe financial risk.

Downing said Business Owners should Contact the Insurance Company Directly

“We would hear from folks that would get notices of cancellation for nonpayment and they're saying, ‘Well, hey, I paid the whole premium up front’,” he said. “So they're getting these notices from the insurance companies and this person would basically go to the insurance company and say, ‘if you're going to send a notice, send it to my office, rather than to the person that's insured’, basically continuing this charade and collecting the premiums. We've seen this starting to pop up with these unscrupulous agents not actually purchasing insurance, and so people think that they're insured and they're not, thus putting them, their assets, and their finances at risk.”

Downing urges business policy owners to contact the insurance company itself and confirm that their local agent is acting legally.

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