WICHITA, KAN. - A former insurance agent in Wichita pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing from his clients, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Jason Matthew Pennington, 42, Bel Aire, Kan., pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and one count of attempted bank fraud. In his plea, he admitted the crimes occurred while he was an agent working for State Farm Insurance.
WIRE FRAUD (Count Two)
In 2000, Wendell and Marita Hill, who had purchased insurance policies from State Farm, became clients of Pennington after their former State Farm agent retired. In Nov. 2004, the Hills purchased a life insurance policy through Pennington valued at more than $3.4 million. The policy was issued by Phoenix Life Insurance Company, an insurance provider affiliated with State Farm Insurance.
In 2008, Pennington devised a scheme to defraud the Hills and Phoenix. On Feb. 29, 2008, he sent a fax to Phoenix Life Insurance Company requesting a loan of $105,000 on the Hills’ life insurance policy. The loan contained the forged signature of Brent Hill, who was trustee of the Hill Family Trust. Brent Hill did not make the request for the loan.
WIRE FRAUD: (Count Four)
In 2006, Marlene Brown, who had retired following a 37-year career with the Wichita Public Schools as a teacher, coach and school administrator, purchased a State Farm life insurance policy through Pennington. The policy was valued at $1.3 million.
In September 2009, Pennington contacted State Farm and changed the address for Marlene Brown’s insurance policy to Pennington’s business address. He then sent a fax to State Farm making a withdrawal of $278,250 on the policy. Pennington forged Brown’s signature and requested the withdrawal without her knowledge.
When State Farm called him to ask why the money was to be sent to his office instead of Brown’s home, Pennington lied and told them Brown was his mother-in-law.
Marlene Brown died Oct. 27, 2009.
ATTEMPTED BANK FRAUD: (Count 45)
In February 2010, Pennington applied for a line of credit from State Farm Bank. In order to qualify for the credit, he did not report to the bank that he was required to pay $5,000 a month in child support and alimony to his first wife. He also falsely reported that his second wife was receiving an annual salary as an employee of his insurance office.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 3. Both parties have agreed to recommend a sentence of 42 months in federal prison.
Grissom commended the FBI, IRS – Criminal Investigation Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Smith for their work on the case.