A Visalia-based insurance agent and his associate face a lengthy criminal complaint and will soon be in court to hear the charges against them.
In April, a 60-count complaint was filed against Robert Ausherman and Concepcion Ruelas.
The charges against the defendants include embezzlement, conspiracy theft by false pretense, transacting insurance without a valid license and preparing or offering false evidence of insurance.
Ausherman owns Ausherman Agency in Visalia on Mooney Boulevard. Ruelas was a receptionist for the agency, according to the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.
Ausherman said he was shocked to learn of the allegations against him and says he is an innocent victim.
“This happened because I hired someone that had a previous felony for embezzlement and did not disclose it to me,” he stated in an email to Times-Delta/Advanced Register. “… I am the largest victim in this case.”
DA investigators began looking into Ausherman’s dealings with local businesses following a Contractors State License Board check.
In April 2018, Khoua Lopez, a criminal investigator with the DA’s office, interviewed Pedro Guiterrez, owner of Gutierrez Tree Service.
Lopez searched the California Contractors State License Board website and didn’t find a policy for Gutierrez Tree Service.
“Gutierrez was adamant that he paid Ausherman Agency for an insurance policy and provided me with a copy of a certificate of insurance he stated he received from Ausherman Agency, Farmers Insurance,” Lopez stated in a probable cause report.
Lopez discovered that on June 6, 2017, Ausherman and Ruelas “conspired and fraudulently” collected two checks, totaling $795, from Gutierrez.
The payments were for a workers’ compensation deposit and a general liability policy.
Ruelas gave Gutierrez “manufactured” insurance documents and a fake workers’ compensation insurance policy, Lopez stated in the report.
The general liability policy was issued but because the check was never forwarded to the insurance carrier, the policy was canceled.
“We almost lost out on a big job because of that,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez has an active tree service license, according to Contractors State License Board.
A deeper look into Ausherman’s business uncovered more than a dozen alleged victims.
Between 2015 and 2018, 18 other small businesses were “victimized” in the same or similar fashion, according to Lopez. The amount collected from the businesses exceeded $50,000.
The complaint lists Shrock Construction and Farmersville Volunteer Fire Department as victims.
Ausherman’s licenses are currently active through the California Department of Insurance.
However, the list of insurers doesn’t include Farmers Insurance.
“(Ausherman) has not represented any Farmers Insurance entity since late January of this year,” stated Luis Sahagun, Farmers Insurance director of external communications, in an email to Times-Delta/Advanced Register.
A preliminary hearing setting is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2020 in Department 3 of Tulare County Superior Court.
Until then, Ausherman says he will continue his work in the community and thanked his friends and family for their support.
“This has caused my family and I great grief and financial hardships,” he stated. “If it weren’t for the support of close friends and family, it would have been even more difficult to make it through this time.
“I have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in the community for kids and charities throughout the years, so my reputation means everything.”
Sheyanne Romero covers Tulare County public safety, local government and business for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @sheyanne_VTD. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.
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