UPDATE on “Rev.” Acen Phillips
A while back I reported on “Rev.” Acen Phillips of Colorado, [Link ] who was accused of insurance fraud. Apparently there was so much strong evidence against him that he went ahead and pleaded guilty.
A prominent Denver bishop pleaded guilty Thursday to felony theft in an insurance fraud case and has been sentenced to eight years probation and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution.
The Rev. Acen Phillips, 73, entered the plea on Thursday in Arapahoe County District Court. In exchange, prosecutors dropped 11 other counts and AIG Life Insurance Co. dropped a federal civil suit against him.
He was also sentenced to perform 100 hours of community service and ordered to attend a theft offenders class and a victim empathy group.
Phillips, founder of New Birth Temple of Praise Community Baptist Church, was accused of defrauding AIG of $575,000. He could have faced up to 81 years in prison and up to $5 million in fines if convicted on all counts.
Phillips said he was deeply sorry and that he recognized that he made serious errors.
“I would like to apologize to the court and my community,” he said. “I would certainly like the opportunity to redeem myself to the community.”
He told the court that at the time, he did not understand his actions, but he understands it now.
At issue were claims filed under a group life insurance policy taken out for American Church United, which prosecutors say was headed by Phillips.
Prosecutors had accused Phillips, of suburban Aurora, of falsifying documents to funnel money to church groups he controlled, sometimes showing up at funerals to make contact with family members about filing an insurance claim.
In at least one instance, prosecutors alleged Phillips asked a mother to sign her deceased son’s name on a beneficiary form a few days after the funeral.
When Call7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski confronted Phillips about the allegations 15 months ago, Phillips said, “When you hear the real story, it will look real good.”
He never elaborated, nor explained his actions.
In court Thursday, the judge asked Phillips how a man who had done so much for the community engage in that type of behavior.
Some called Phillips sentence a “soft conclusion” but prosecutors agreed to the plea deal because the 73-year-old bishop has no prior criminal record.
“We decided that to take the plea to the highest charge was a good disposition, and a course that resulted in a certainty of a restitution order of a half-million dollars for AIG, who is the only out-of-pocket victim in the case,” said Attorney General John Suthers.
AIG said it is pleased with the outcome of the case.
“We think it sends an important message to anyone who intends to defraud insurance companies,” AIG said in a statement.
Hat tip to Evangelist ET for story lead