WRAL Investigates

Client claims Selma insurance agent made him sign away rights

Posted September 28, 2011
Updated September 29, 2011

— 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.

Personal Finance Client speaks out about Selma agent

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.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • opinionatedme Sep 29, 2011

    I think they should do a complete investigation of this guy since this seems to have been a normal business practice. There is no telling how many more people he did this to and how much money he stole or for how long. It is just terrible to have someone with so little integrity in a local business. This is why lots of people would rather deal directly with large insurance companies instead of local vendors. He is scum and gives everyone else a bad name!

  • farm Sep 29, 2011

    "They are just as much American Citizens as we are.?

    Their votes count like ours too huh?

  • dsalter Sep 29, 2011

    English is taught in schools in Puerto Rico, but a lot of folks there can hardly speak the language. They are just as much American Citizens as we are. The difference is...Spanish is their native language.

  • Arapaloosa Sep 29, 2011

    Sounds to me like this guy wants to keep the refund he got and sue for more... who's the scammer?

  • sexipinay1969 Sep 29, 2011

    Wow! Really, kellypratz! Yes, 20 years in the U.S. and difficult to read English. What exactly are you implying? There is a possibility that he may have a reading disability, did you ever stop to think that? Since someone has the time to judge this victim, how about volunteering your time to better his understanding and comprehension of the English language.

  • dsalter Sep 29, 2011

    There's a lot of crooks out there taking advantage of people who earn an honest living in this country. Let's not forget, this is a nation of immigrants and there are a lot of them here legally. People are also being ripped off by Notary Publics posing as Notario Publicos. The difference is, a Notary Public is commissioned by the Secretary of State in an admistrative capacity only...while in Mexico or Latin American countries, a Notario Publico is actually an attorney who originate and process immigration papers and other legal documents. Here, if someone does not know the difference, it's easy for a crooked buzzard to swoop in for the take. There's a few of them out there, even though the majority of Notaries are honest and in most cases background screened.

  • kellypratz Sep 29, 2011

    living in the US for 20yrs and still can't read english? really?

  • lprop Sep 29, 2011

    Must be lots of tranactions in running a trucking company. Very interesting

  • SirWired Sep 29, 2011

    I'm pretty sure that that paper is not valid. The decision to press charges has always been up to the government. A citizen cannot sign any paper that would keep the AG from doing his/her job. Certainly you can sign away your right to a civil suit (under some circumstances), but that won't effect criminal charges.

  • wwyoud Sep 29, 2011

    DoOntoOthers - what does speaking a Natiuve American language have to do with this? Garay is a businessman who can't read/understand the current business language very well, and hasn't compensated by finding a trustworthy friend/partner to help him before signing. He easily became a victim of a scammer because of that.