Client claims Selma insurance agent made him sign away rights
Posted September 28, 2011
Updated September 29, 2011
Selma, N.C. — Gilberto Garay said he had to sign his rights away in order to get a refund from a Selma insurance agent accused of overcharging customers by more than $60,000.
State investigators said Brad Cooper, the owner of Commercial and Farmers Insurance in Selma and Affordable Choice Insurance, overcharged Gilberto Garay $4,186 for coverage of his trucking company.
Garay said Cooper told him he had to sign a form stating he wouldn't press charges against Cooper in order to get his money back.
Garay is from El Salvador but has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. He said he has trouble reading English. He said Cooper read the form to him, but he didn’t understand it.
Garay said he had no idea he signed away his right to press charges until he took the form to insurance agent Kim Jackson.
"I got his daughter on the phone. I read to her what was the paper, and she was flabbergasted. She said, 'I cannot believe this,'" Jackson said.
Jackson worked for Cooper at Commercial and Farmers Insurance Services in Selma earlier this year. The company is one of four insurance companies with family ties to Cooper audited by the North Carolina Department of Insurance this summer. The state believes the companies overcharged customers and possibly forged signatures.
"The premium would be $500 for a year. He’d charge $700, $800, whatever I guess he would come up with. Whatever he thought he could get by with," Jackson said of her time at Cooper’s business.
Jackson said Cooper took advantage of Garay not only by overcharging him, but also by having him sign a paper he couldn't understand.
Garay's family said they plan to alert the state Attorney General's Office about the case.
Cooper has not been charged with any crime. The Department of Insurance allows him time to respond to the investigation. Kerry Hall, the agency's director of public information, said a letter would be sent to set up a conference between Cooper and investigators.
Cooper and his wife, Holly Cooper, bought the agencies from his in-laws, Bill and Karen Honaker. They referred customers to her parents' finance company, Premium Service Inc. of Selma, for billing.
Given multiple opportunities to talk to WRAL News, Cooper did not respond.