The attorneys for a Utah businessman charged in an insurance fraud scheme in Washington are urging a trial judge to keep the man out of prison, saying the offense did not cause any financial harm to a victim.
Bret Van Leeuwen, a broker for nearly 30 years, pleaded guilty in June in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of insurance fraud. He agreed to forfeit to the government nearly $1 million from a business partnership he created with another man in the conspiracy.
Prosecutors said this week Leeuwen should serve some time in prison. Charging documents said Leeuwen shielded from clients his ownership interest in certain insurance agreements that personally benefited him.
Leeuwen retired earlier this year from his Utah-based company, Stratus Insurance, which focused on finding insurance coverage for speciality industries that included chimney sweeps, massage therapists and sporting goods manufacturers.
Van Leeuwen’s attorney, Zuckerman Spaeder partner William Taylor III, said in a sentencing memo (.pdf) filed this week that probation is appropriate punishment. Van Leeuwen, according to his attorney, is “not a predator or a venal purveyor of fraud.” Taylor wrote at length about Leeuwen’s charitable foundation called “Koins for Keyna.”
Taylor said Leeuwen believed the intended coverage was legal and provided advantages to his clients. Van Leeuwen’s crime, Taylor said, was in not disclosing his ownership interest in the entity intended to provide the insurance. Leeuwen withheld information from clients, Taylor said, but he made sure all insurance benefits were paid.
“Incarceration would be dramatically disproportionate to this offense,” Taylor said. Van Leeuwen, his lawyer said, “acknowledged that he made a grave error for which he understands he must be punished.”
The Brigham Young University athletic director, Tom Holmoe, said in a letter to the court that Leeuwen has a “big heart.” Leeuwen, Holmoe said, helped mentor a football player who was removed from the team last year.
An assistant U.S. attorney, Michael Atkinson, said in court papers (.pdf) filed this week that Leeuwen “selfishly chose his own interests over those of his clients.”
“In the process, he put thousands of federal employees (including federal judges and federal law enforcement personnel) and massage therapists at potential financial risk,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said Leeuwen faces up to a year in prison. The government urged U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina to send Leeuwen to jail for some period of time. Urbina scheduled sentencing for Sept. 26.
Judge Urbina on Sept. 26 sentenced Leeuwen to four years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $995,000 in civil penalties. The judge also issued a suspended sentence of six months in prison.