Audits point to Selma insurance agent
Posted September 23, 2011
Updated September 27, 2011
A Selma insurance agent linked by family and business ties to four agencies is accused of overcharging customers by more than $60,000.
According to an audit by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Brad Cooper is the owner of Commercial and Farmers Insurance in Selma and Affordable Choice Insurance in Wendell. He and his wife, Holly Cooper, bought the agency from his in-laws, Bill and Karen Honaker. They refer customers to her parents' finance company, Premium Service Inc. of Selma, for billing.
Janine and Kent Schroeder of Spring Hope were among the first customers to report suspicions about Cooper. They had transferred their home and auto policies to his Affordable Choice Insurance after an auto accident cost them their coverage.
When the payment books came, Janine Schroeder noticed that the name of the company was unfamiliar. She called Cooper, who explained that he managed financing through a third party, Premium Service Inc. of Selma.
"Of course, red flags went up at that moment," she said.
When she pressed for a look at the contract, Cooper faxed her a document, but the signature was illegible.
Schroeder went to Cooper's office to look at the original and found two surprises. First, the interest rate was listed at almost 25 percent, a price the Schroeders say they never would have agreed to. And the signature did not match either of their handwriting.
Janine Schroeder said she confronted Cooper. "He forged our name and he knew he did," she said.
She called the Department of Insurance and the Attorney General that same day.
The audits also conclude that Cooper appears to have forged documents.
The audits indicate that what happened to the Schroeders may be the tip of the iceberg. The documents list cases where auditors believe clients were overcharged by amounts from $50 to more than $10,000.
The Schroeders got a check for the $90 they overpaid, but they are not satisfied.
"When you are talking lots of people and lots of money, he should not get by with it," Janine Schroeder said.
Cooper is not charged with any crime. The Department of Insurance allows him time to respond to the investigation. Kerry Hall, director of public information for the DOI, said a letter would be sent to set up a conference between Cooper and investigators.
Given multiple opportunities to talk to WRAL News, Cooper did not respond.
The Honakers sold another agency, Clayton Insurance to their daughter, Holly Richardson, and their son, Will Honaker owns Smithfield Insurance Agency. The audit outlines how the siblings use their parents' finance company, Premium Service Inc. of Selma, for billing.
The Department of Insurance audited all five companies and, Hall said, a number of people and agencies are under investigation.