DOI News

For Immediate Release: Contact:
May 21, 2009 Kristin Milam
Johanna Royo
Michael Howell Pleads Guilty to 25 Counts of Embezzlement
RALEIGH -- Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin today announced that Michael A. Howell, 41, 5405 Fredrick St., Indian Trial, has pleaded guilty to 25 counts of embezzlement by an insurance agent. Howell is also charged with first degree murder in the death of Sallie Rohrbach, a Department of Insurance agency examiner. He is currently being held at the Mecklenburg County Jail. Today's guilty plea comes after nine months of investigation into the Dilworth Insurance Agency in Charlotte.
Each embezzlement count represents a premium payment that Howell pocketed instead of forwarding to GMAC Insurance and Discovery Insurance companies. Between March 2004 and May 2008, Howell embezzled more than $150,000 in documented and undocumented premiums.
Hundreds of the Dilworth Insurance Agency's customers - many of whom were senior citizens and/or minorities - were affected by Howell's actions, but GMAC Insurance and Discovery Insurance companies made good on every policy affected, so no customers lost money or insurance coverage in the end.
The Department of Insurance employs 20 sworn law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating claims of insurance fraud. In 2008, these investigators saw more than 453 cases successfully closed with more than $5.8 million in restitution and recoveries, 60 criminal convictions and 130 arrests.
An estimated 10 cents of every dollar paid in premiums goes toward the payment of fraudulent claims. To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance Investigations Division at (919) 807-6840. Callers may remain anonymous. Information is also available at the NC-DOI Web site.
-- NCDOI --