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Insurance Broker Admits Fraud Against Philadelphia Housing Authority


Posted on 21 May 2012 by Neilson

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A politically connected insurance broker pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding the Philadelphia Housing Authority of $2.3 million and is now naming names for federal authorities of public officials and others who allegedly have accepted bribes or kickbacks in return for business.

Kobie T. West, 39, who took over West Insurance Group from his father and the firm's founder, Bernard T. West, has admitted to one count of wire fraud.

With the help of a PHA accomplice, Kobie West created a fake invoice of $2,141,523 for worker's compensation coverage, then included a commission of $181,202 for the money he stole.

At his plea hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky cited a confidential plea agreement that said West was "conspiring with another person to provide bribes and kickbacks to persons, including public officials known to the U.S. government, in order to maintain business for West Insurance."

Slomsky also said West was involved in "three to four other areas of cooperation with the government."

Joseph J. Khan, an assistant U.S. attorney, would not comment about the investigation after the hearing.

But eight years ago, West figured in the sprawling federal investigation of pay-to-play politics in City Hall that led to the indictment of the late Ronald White, a confidant to former Mayor John F. Street, and the conviction of former City Treasurer Corey Kemp.

In 1998, West Insurance gave a check for $10,000 to Street on the eve of the former City Council president's first successful run for mayor. The company later moved its headquarters to Philadelphia from Boston and received no-bid contracts from the city.

At the time, West said the check was payment for a presentation to the company's board. Street's associates gave conflicting accounts at the time of what the money was for, and one adviser said there had been no speech.
Street could not be reached for comment Friday. No one was charged with a crime regarding the payment.

In 2010, the minority-owned West Insurance sold most of its assets to a Havertown insurance company, PK Financial Group, which is run by a number of former West Insurance executives.

Prosecutors said West Insurance depended on political contacts and contracts from public agencies for most of its business. But since 2004, it had contracts totaling only $142,303 with the city, according to the City Controller's Office.