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Rangers join La Vernia PD in Ritchey investigation
Wilson County NewsMay 8, 2013 4,704 views 7 comments
LA VERNIA -- The Texas Rangers is the latest agency to join in the broadening criminal investigation of insurance agent Patsy Ritchey.
Chief Bruce Ritchey of the La Vernia Police Department -- who is of no relation to the accused -- said May 2 that his department and the Rangers are participating in a joint investigation into Patsy Ritchey’s tenure as the treasurer of the Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce. The chief said that the chamber has turned over seven years of financial records, which will be analyzed as part of the probe. (See “Chamber actions” for more about the chamber’s actions in the wake of the investigation.)
Police began their investigation into Patsy Ritchey April 22 when chamber board members became aware of an ongoing criminal investigation into her insurance agency by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office White Collar Crimes Division. That agency enlisted the services of Investigator Gordon Bake of the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), who is pursuing complaints of insurance fraud by customers of the now-closed Patsy Ritchey Farmers Insurance office on U.S. 87 in La Vernia. Farmers Insurance terminated its relationship with Ritchey April 18, prior to the office’s closure.
The Wilson County News sent an open records request to TDI April 23 for information related to the complaint that spurred its investigation. On May 2, the newspaper received redacted copies of a complaint and related correspondence between that agency, Ritchey, and Farmers Insurance.
One of the agent’s former customers complained to Farmers Insurance in 2011 that a change of address request had been written for five policies held by one family. All five allegedly were redirected to Ritchey’s personal address. Then, requests for partial surrender withdrawals were submitted for three of the same policies.
In her responses to Farmers and TDI, Patsy Ritchey claimed that a former employee -- identified sometimes as “Mary Olividraz,” other times as “Mary Olividrez” -- was to blame and that she forged her boss’ signature. The insurance agent alleged that the employee forged checks, deposited the funds into the company’s account, and then issued checks to herself for the same amounts.
Patsy Ritchey informed TDI that her former employee was terminated in November 2010, has since married, and moved to Piedras Negras, Mexico, where she is unable to be located. The agency reported that it since had reimbursed all funds related to this complaint.
“She stole several thousand dollars from me, but before I discovered it she was long gone,” Patsy Ritchey wrote in one of the messages.
The Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce has elected some new officers in the wake of the investigation into the missing funds spurred by the insurance fraud investigation.
Immediate past President Wes Becknell, who had stepped down recently due to work obligations, was re-elected to his former office during the May 1 chamber meeting. Chamber members approved a new board position, second vice president, to ensure a quorum is available for meetings and to alleviate tie votes. Sue Richter was elected to this office.
Following a vote to remove Patsy Ritchey as treasurer, certified public accountant Cynthia Buerkle was elected to take on this responsibility. Mary Ann Mays was elected as secretary to replace Shannon Titzman, who formerly worked for Patsy Ritchey. This measure was encouraged in an effort to aid in the investigation into the missing chamber funds.
For more information, contact the Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce:
•P.O. Box 1055, La Vernia, TX 78121
•www.LaVerniaChamber.com or on Facebook
•Drop by the office at 112 E. Chihuahua St., inside the La Vernia News building.
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