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Section A: General News


Eagle Ford: La Vernia insurance agent subject of widening criminal investigation


Eagle Ford: La Vernia insurance agent subject of widening criminal investigation
WILLIAM J. GIBBS JR./Reprints at wilsoncountynews.com Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce Vice President Elaine Mazurek Stephens (left) and Secretary Shannon Titzman listen April 22 as Chief Bruce Ritchey of the La Vernia Police Department addresses members of the organization during an informal emergency meeting.


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Wilson County News
May 1, 2013
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LA VERNIA -- District attorneys offices for both Bexar County and the 81st Judicial District, along with the La Vernia Police Department, all have confirmed that they are involved in ongoing criminal investigations centering around local insurance agent Patsy Ritchey.

Complaints filed in both Bexar and Wilson counties spurred the investigation into possible insurance fraud. This is according to Adriana Biggs of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office’s White Collar Crimes Division April 24. She said Gordon Bake, an investigator from the Texas Department of Insurance, has been investigating Ritchey for at least three months.

Assistant District Attor-ney Audrey Louis of the 81st Judicial District said April 23 that Ritchey is the subject of an ongoing investigation in Wilson County. At some point, Biggs said, the two offices will decide whether to continue pursuing their cases separately or to join forces. No charges have been filed and no arrest had been made as of press time April 29.

Meanwhile, Farmers Insurance on April 18 cut its ties with Ritchey. Company spokesman Mark Toohey said Farmers conducted its own internal investigation. He did not specify what sparked the investigation or what led to the closure of Ritchey’s office on U.S. 87.

In addition to her insurance business, Ritchey served for the past 3-1/2 years as the treasurer of the Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce. That organization, upon learning of the investigation into Ritchey’s business, began a review of its own finances. At an informal board meeting held April 22, chamber Vice President Elaine Stephens said, “It does appear there is money missing from our bank account. It does appear to be more than $20,000. It could be more; we still have to look into other accounts.”

The chamber’s former president, Wes Becknell, said that while Ritchey’s most recent treasurer’s report indicated a total of $68,715 among three funds, the chamber only could account for approximately $2,700 as of the meeting. The board is working with its bank to grasp the true nature of the situation and a report has been filed with Chief Bruce Ritchey of the La Vernia Police Department. The chief is of no familial relation to the accused.

Chief Ritchey said now it is a matter of “following the money trail,” which he said will involve scrutiny of five years’ worth of books. His last such investigation, into the La Vernia Junior High School Student Activities Account, took 17 months.

For more information

Ritchey’s former customers should call Farmers’ district office at 210-338-6884 for further information.

Anyone who believes Ritchey victimized them should call Investigator Gordon Bake of the Texas Department of Insurance at 210-335-2404.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
7th Generation La Vernian  
La Vernia  
May 2, 2013 3:22pm
 
The meeting yesterday was a mess. People walking out mad and others standing up for the secretary who was forced to resign. Question: Did that secretary sign checks for Ritchey or was she authorized to sign them?

 
Xavier bernal  
San Antonio, Tx  
May 2, 2013 7:19am
 
17 months to complete an investigation. Wow this guy still has time to con more folks and make a lot more money

 
7th Generation La Vernian  
La Vernia  
May 1, 2013 1:24pm
 
Where was the vice treasurer? Wasn't she/he co-signing the checks or checking the accounts?

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