For Immediate Release: March 13, 2019

Contact: Barry Smith at 919-807-6014

Former Johnston County volunteer fire chief given probation, ordered to make restitution after pleading guilty to insurance fraud, embezzlement, false pretense charges

RALEIGH -- North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey today announced the conviction of a former Johnston County volunteer fire chief, who was given probation and ordered to repay more than $23,000 he took after filing fraudulent insurance claims for fire department equipment.

Kenan Wayne Kearney, 45, of 525 Thompson Road, Four Oaks, pleaded guilty in Johnston County Superior Court to six felony counts of insurance fraud, seven counts of felony embezzlement, and 12 counts of felony obtaining property by false pretense. Kearney was the former chief of the Blackman's Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department.

Superior Court Judge Tanya T. Wallace gave Kearney a six to 17-month suspended sentence on the condition that he pay $23,841.31 in restitution, court costs, and submit to 36 months of supervised probation. Kearney was also ordered not to hold a position of trust or a position to handle funds and to notify the state fire marshal within 14 days of being employed with a fire department.

"This is a sad day for the dedicated volunteer firefighters in Johnston County because Mr. Kearney held a position of trust with them," Commissioner Causey said. "But it's also a good day, because justice has been served, and the fire department and insurance company will be reimbursed for their losses."

"I hope the people in the community will continue to rally around the Blackman's Crossroads volunteer firefighters as they selflessly continue to serve and protect their friends and neighbors," Commissioner Causey said.

According to court documents, Kearney turned in claims for four portable radios, a portable air pack, and a thermal imaging device, falsely saying that they were either lost or damaged between 2013 and 2017.

Fraud is felt every time consumers pay their insurance premiums. Commissioner Causey estimates fraud costs North Carolinians between 15 and 20 cents on every dollar paid on insurance premiums.

"Insurance fraud affects our economy. Not only does it damage insurance companies, it cheats businesses and consumers too," Commissioner Causey said. "This kind of white-collar crime is unacceptable. That's why I've doubled the number of Special Agents to investigate insurance fraud. Cracking down on fraud will put more money in the pockets of businesses and consumers."

To report suspected fraud, contact the N.C. Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840. Callers may remain anonymous. Information is also available at www.ncdoi.com.

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