in Houston, Texas
Travis County DA investigating allegations of fraud at state insurance agency TWIA
Monday, Mar 07, 2011, 02:36PM CST
By Steve Miller
Hurricane Ike

The Travis County District Attorney’s public integrity office, together with two state agencies, is probing possible fraud stemming from payments following Hurricane Ike by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
 
The office, with the Texas Department of Insurance fraud team and the Texas State Auditor’s office, is looking into allegations that a Hurricane Ike claims adjuster was paid for work that was not done, and that claims were paid based on that outside adjuster’s say-so, an assistant DA confirmed in an interview. The investigation is also seeking specifics on the dismissals in December of two high-ranking claims employees at TWIA, Reggie Warren and Bill Knarr.
 
Both employees were given generous severance packages, first reported on by Texas Watchdog. TWIA boss Jim Oliver last month told the Texas Legislature’s House Committee on Insurance that the packages – which included a 2010 Ford pickup truck for Warren -  were to ensure the two would cooperate in any lawsuits against TWIA or other issues down the road.
 
Oliver initially said the two resigned, but others have confirmed that they were fired.
 
The investigation is focused on Ike claims, but a broader look at the office is also part of the sweep.
 
“Right now, it is most likely this investigation is dealing with Ike claims, but we do need to look at the whole thing,” said Gregg Cox, assistant district attorney in the public integrity unit. “We’re looking at all possible wrongdoing that might have occurred.”
 
Last week, TWIA was placed under administrative oversight by the state insurance department, which uncovered the potentially fraudulent payments. The TWIA board announced that Oliver would be replaced, pending a final vote later this month.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of Hurricane Ike path by flickr user eschipul, used via a Creative Commons license.
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