Former Arizona congressman's accountant convicted of embezzling insurance premiums

Dwayne Lequire was found guilty by a federal jury in Tucson, Arizona, last week of eight counts of embezzling insurance premiums and one count of conspiracy, according to Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke for the District of Arizona.

According to testimony and evidence presented during the trial, which began June 22, 2010, Lequire, 51, of Elgin, Arizona, has been the treasurer of Patriot Insurance Agency Inc., since 2004. Patriot Insurance was formerly owned by former Arizona Congressman Richard Renzi, and is currently owned by Renzi's wife.

The indictment alleged that from 2006 to 2009 Lequire embezzled insurance premiums held in trust and directed those premiums to Renzi's personal accounts, and that he conspired with Renzi to do so. The evidence at trial showed that Lequire embezzled $796,000 of the insurance premiums held in trust.  Lequire directed the embezzled funds to Renzi, including, in June 2006, a payment of $263,000 from which Renzi paid federal income tax of more than $200,000, and purchased multiple airline tickets for his family, according to evidence presented at trial.

The former general counsel of Patriot Insurance, Andrew Beardall, was tried jointly with Lequire on charges that he made false statements to insurance regulators in 2002 and 2003, after Renzi had allegedly engaged in an earlier embezzlement of insurance premiums to fund his first congressional campaign. Andrew Beardall was acquitted by the jury on all counts.

Lequire and Beardall are the second and third of Renzi's alleged co-conspirators to face trial. In June 2008, a federal jury in Sherman, Texas, convicted business partner James W. Sandlin of two counts of making false statements to a financial institution. Renzi and Sandlin remain charged with extortion arising out of multiple federal land exchange efforts in 2005.

Each count of embezzling insurance premiums carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case was tried before U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury. Lequire remains released on his own recognizance. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 18, before Judge Bury.

The investigation leading to the guilty verdict was conducted by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary M. Restaino for the District of Arizona and Senior Trial Attorney Andrew Levchuk of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section.

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