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Another Kicker gone bad (1 Viewer)

Mike Herman

First it was Russell Erxleben, then it was Cole Ford, and now...

Former San Francisco 49ers placekicker Ray Wersching was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges of embezzling more than $8 million in insurance premiums, prosecutors said. Wersching, 55, owner of the Ray Wersching Insurance Agency in Redwood City, was accused of misappropriating premiums that should have been paid to the Farmers Insurance Group from 1997 to 2000. The six-count indictment also charges him with evading taxes on $3.6 million of corporate income in 1999 and 2000.

The company's former co-owner, Mary Ann Locke, was indicted in August on similar embezzlement charges, which are still pending. One charge against Wersching is that he allowed Locke, who had a 1992 forgery conviction, to handle insurance, in violation of a law that prohibits willfully permitting a convicted felon to participate in the insurance business. The indictment alleged that Wersching diverted to his own company some premiums that were owed to Farmers, but did not specify what he did with the money. The amounts withheld from Farmers ranged from $456,000 in 1997 to $3.4 million in 2000, the indictment said.

Attempts to reach Wersching for comment were unsuccessful. He is due in court Monday.

Wersching, a UC Berkeley graduate, had a 15-year National Football League career, playing for the San Diego Chargers from 1973 to 1977 and for the 49ers for the next 10 years. When he was released after the 1987 season, he held team records for total points, field goals and points after touchdown. He still holds a Super Bowl record with five career field goals. While playing football, he worked as a certified public accountant in the off-season.

The investigation of Wersching's insurance company was started by the state Department of Insurance in 2001 and later joined by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, authorities said. It was also in 2001 that Farmers severed its relationship with Wersching, who had been a Farmers agent since 1995, according to the indictment. State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi said the indictment "makes it clear that in California, no one -- whether an average citizen or a former football star -- will escape prosecution if they are suspected of insurance fraud.''
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Weird. I just randomly grabbed a football card of his out of my old collection to use as a bookmark recently.

He certain looks more cut out for embezzlement than field goal kicking based on the picture.

Charles Smith, Wersching's attorney, released a statement Wednesday calling the allegations against his client "absurd." Locke was solely responsible for stealing the $8 million in premiums, the statement said. Wersching found out about Locke's alleged crimes and contacted the District Attorney's Office and filed a civil lawsuit against her, Smith said. "We do not believe there is any basis for a criminal prosecution of Mr. Wersching," Smith said. "He was a victim. He committed no criminal act."

Smith said Locke made a deal with the government and blamed Wersching in exchange for a reduced sentence. Some of the money Wersching is accused of not paying taxes on was money stolen by Locke, who spent it "upon a lavish lifestyle and gambling in Nevada," Smith said. "Ray Wersching received nothing," he said. "He lives a modest lifestyle in a townhouse on the Peninsula."
Some more details for you diehard insurance fraud fans:

United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan, California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, IRS Special Agent in Charge Roger Wirth, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Joe Ford announced the indictment.

According to the indictment, Wersching falsified and altered documents and records of his business in order to steal premium money owed to Farmers. Wersching also allegedly transferred premium money to the operating account of his company, instead of remitting the funds to Farmers. The 55 year old Wersching is charged with embezzling and misappropriating over $456,000 of premiums belonging to Farmers in 1997; over $1.2 million in such premiums in 1998; over $3 million in such premiums in 1999; and over $3.4 million in such premiums in 2000, all by failing to remit the premiums to Farmers as required by the company's policies and procedures.

The Investigation Division of the California Department of Insurance launched the investigation in 2001. It was then joined by the FBI and IRS who lead interviews of over 200 witnesses, and served more than 60 search warrants. A summons was issued to Wersching, to appear in court on March 27, 2006, at 9:30 a.m.
Friday morning tidbit:

Wersching faces maximum penalties of 21 years in jail and $750,025 in fines.
Well, since he got away with over 8 mill, that puts him about 7.5 mill ahead. Even if he got the max sentence, that's still like 350K a year. :)
Tuesday morning update:

Ray Wersching remains free on bail after pleading not guilty to embezzlement charges. In entering his plea yesterday, Wersching also learned that his former business partner is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in the case.
Minor update:

Former San Francisco 49ers place-kicker Ray Wersching appeared briefly in federal court today to sign a bail bond. Wersching signed the unsecured bond for $250,000 before U.S. Magistrate Bernard Zimmerman in San Francisco. His next court appearance is before a federal trial judge on April 13.

Groomed and polite, a former NFL kicker who has been hospitalized for mental illness pleaded guilty Thursday to shooting at the home of entertainers Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn in 2004. Cole Ford, who last kicked for the Oakland Raiders in 1997, agreed to a felony plea that could result in a suspended sentence of one to six years in a Nevada prison if he continues mental health treatment at a center near his family's home in Tucson, Ariz.

"We've come a long way with Mr. Ford, and he's doing terrific," Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass said as she addressed Ford's mother, Amy Ford, in the courtroom gallery. The judge, who last year sent Ford to a state mental health facility in Sparks, also signed an order allowing a mother-son jail visit.

Outside court, Amy Ford, who turns 61 on Monday, said she didn't exchange words in the courtroom with her son, whom she said she had not seen since 1999. "But with his eyes, he said, 'Hi mom,'" she said. "This is a nice Mother's Day and nice birthday present."

Ford, 34, stood before the judge in a blue jail jumpsuit with his wrists shackled at his waist. But his cropped hair and a clean-shaven face were a marked contrast to his appearance during court hearings in late 2004 and early 2005 when he wore his hair past his shoulders and a full beard that extended to his chest. A year ago, Glass ruled him incompetent for trial and rejected his attempts to plead guilty to charges that could have sent him to prison for 27 years.

"Yes, your honor," Ford responded calmly Thursday after Glass deemed him competent and asked him if he understood the plea agreement, which also requires him to pay restitution and have no contact with Fischbacher or Horn. Ford pleaded guilty to one charge of shooting at a structure. Several felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, were dismissed. Glass set sentencing for June 29, but said he could be transferred to Tucson sooner, if a suitable treatment center was found.

Outside court, Clark County prosecutor Frank Coumou and Assistant Clark County Public Defender Daren Richards called the plea deal a fair resolution to the case. A publicist for the entertainers said they were aware of the agreement, but had no comment.

Ford was arrested six weeks after the Sept. 21, 2004, drive-by shooting at Fischbacher and Horn's Las Vegas compound. Police said shotgun pellets shattered windows and left a hole in a wall. No one was injured.

A psychiatrist diagnosed Ford in November 2004 with an unspecified psychotic disorder, saying Ford blamed the illusionists for "dominance and unhealthy intimacy" with their animals. "He felt they threatened (the) world, and he began trying to figure out how he could stop them," Dr. Norton Roitman said.

Ford had been drafted out of USC in 1995 by the Pittsburgh Steelers and kicked for the Raiders for three seasons. He was cut before the 1998 season after missing several crucial kicks in 1997, and his family said he grew more reclusive until they lost contact with him in 1999. Authorities said Ford had been working as a laborer in the Las Vegas area before his arrest.

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