By Steven A. Morelli
The California Supreme Court has upheld the reversal of annuity agent Glenn Neasham’s conviction of theft for selling an annuity.
The court published the opinion on Wednesday, the same day the state Insurance Department restored Neasham’s life insurance license. The judges rejected the attorney general’s request for a review of the reversal, but also ordered that the appellate opinion not be published. The attorney general said the appeals court opinion would have established troubling precedent.
The two events allow Neasham to get some of his former life back. In addition to losing his license, he lost his annuity business and his house. He, his wife and four children live in a house rented from Neasham’s in-laws. They have had to depend on public assistance to get by.
“This has been two blessings in one day,” Neasham said of the decisions.
He has been through an ordeal since county investigators started looking into an annuity sale in March 2008, just a month after the transaction. Neasham sold an indexed annuity to an 83-year-old woman who later turned out to have had dementia at the time. Neasham and two of his assistants said they didn’t see any signs of impairment, although her boyfriend, who was Neasham’s initial client, had done most of the talking during the sale.
Neasham had been taken into custody and charged with felony theft from an elder in December 2010 and faced up to four years in prison. He would not go to trial until nearly a year later, when he was found guilty. The prosecutor admitted to InsuranceNewsNet that she did not prove that Neasham knew the client had dementia. The client also did not ask for her money back and the annuity was refunded in full with interest after the conviction.
Lake County started investigating the case after a bank complained of suspected undue influence from the client’s boyfriend. The county did not charge anyone, but forwarded the case to the state Department of Insurance.
The couple had gone to the bank to take money from a maturing certificate of deposit worth $239,000 and to get a $175,000 check made out to Allianz for a MasterDex 10 indexed annuity. Neasham never had the money but only passed the check to the insurance company. That lack of possession was one of the key objections the three appellate judges cited on Oct. 8 when they overturned the conviction, saying that it did not fit their definition of theft. A month later, the state attorney general asked the state Supreme Court to reject the reversal.
Neasham’s next hurdles are finding errors and omissions (E&O) liability coverage, getting appointed with companies to sell their products and finding prospects.
Neasham said he is not expecting much difficulty finding E&O because he never had a claim against him. He is focused on getting past that, getting contracts with companies and prospecting for clients. He said a principal with his former marketing organization pledged that he would do business with him again. That is even though the agency still represents Allianz, which produced the indexed annuity that Neasham sold to the client in the criminal case. Another agency that sells Allianz products approached him also, so he said he expects he will have little difficulty getting back with the carrier.
Once he has the contracts, he will set up a seminar as soon as he can to prospect for clients. Neasham said he plans to finance the session with $5,000 that he paid in a fine as part of his sentence, which included a 60-day jail sentence. He expects to get the money back now that the Supreme Court passed on his case.
But he expects he will have to handle some skepticism once he gets back to selling.
“Nowadays, everybody Googles everybody, so I’m expecting to get a lot of questions,” Neasham said. “People will probably choose not to do business with me because of that but we’ll have to see.”
One of the things people would encounter online would be a complaint related to the theft case on the state’s insurance department website despite the appellate decision. “I would have assumed that it would not be on their website,” Neasham said. “So I’ll have to follow up with them to see if they will remove it.”
Neasham said he was not surprised that the Supreme Court rejected the state’s request on the reversal but opted to “unpublish” the appellate opinion.
“Experts have said to me that they might go for unpublishing the opinion because the attorney general said it was a bad precedent. But It would not have anything to do with my guilt or innocence,” Neasham said. “As far as I was concerned from the very beginning is that I did nothing wrong. Now I can start fresh and build this up from the ground floor.”
Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at [email protected].
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