Georgia's Oxendine Accused of Cab Scam
Oxendine Accused of Cab Scam
By Betty Clermont, Staff Writer, Atlanta Progressive News (April 24, 2006)
(APN) ATLANTA – Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is being accused of taking improper actions which benefitted his cab industry campaign contributors, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Godfrey Waterhouse claims his son, Robert Waterhouse, was falsely arrested on account of Oxendine for allegedly running a bogus cab insurance agency. The charges were later dropped, and Waterhouse’s insurance agency appears to have been completely legitimate the whole time.
An international news agency and big-city TV reporters had been waiting at the county jail, cameras rolling, as a high-ranking government official, Mr. Oxendine, led him inside, back in March 2005.
The charges against Waterhouse were quietly later dropped after three weeks. His assets were ceased and still have not been returned, he says.
Meanwhile, Oxendine had demanded that several cab companies obtain new insurance, which they did, and this benefitted Republican Oxendine’s big campaign contributors.
A story by Kafka? No, Oxendine!
And there’s more. Now, the State Attorney General’s Office appears to be investigating the matter, Atlanta Progressive News has learned from various sources, and Waterhouse is not a subject of the investigation; however, his assistance and cooperation is wanted.
Further, numerous cab companies are suing the State of Georgia because of Oxendine, and Waterhouse is trying to figure out what happened to his frozen assets.
Oxendine’s office declined to comment on the matter via his spokesperson, Wayne Whitaker, because the matter has been referred to the Attorney General’s Office.
"The State of Georgia did a terrible thing,” Hyatt Choudhari, owner of Atlanta Airport Superior Shuttle and Limo, told Atlanta Progressive News. "We were 156 companies doing business with Waterhouse. Probably four- to five-hundred drivers across the state lost a lot of money.”
What you have to understand is, many big cab companies also run their own in-house cab insurance companies, while smaller companies had been contracting with firms like Waterhouse’s.
An APN analysis found that numerous cab and cab insurance company executives have donated to Mr. Oxendine almost every year since 1998:
Solomon Bekele, Insurance Executive. Yellow Cab of Georgia, Inc.; Rapid Taxi Company, Inc.; and VFH Captive Insurance Company.
Cheru Terefe, Insurance Executive. American Cab Company, Inc.; American Association of Cab Companies, Inc.; American Captive Insurance Co.; and Ethio-American Insurance Co.
Konjit Bekele, Insurance Executive. VFH Insurance, American Cab and American Assoc. of Cab companies.
Tafesse Belachew, Businessman. United Taxicab Company, United Empress Cab Company; and United Group Captive Insurance Company.
Mekeren Tassew, Insurance Executive. United Taxi and United Group Captive Insurance companies.
Jifar Jebel, Administrator. United Taxicab.
"We have calculated that Oxendine has taken $1.7 million from the insurance industry over the last decade," Guy Drexinger, the Democrat running against Oxendine in November, told Atlanta Progressive News.
In February 2005, Oxendine notified the media he would be making a high-profile bust in the little town of Barnesville, about 50 miles south of Atlanta.
The Associated Press and Atlanta's 11 Alive News showed up on March 1, 2005, to photograph Oxendine and the Lamar County sheriff taking Robert Waterhouse, 36, to the county detention center while the GBI raided his home and office.
A local Newspaper Editor in Barnesville’s comments make it appear Oxendine’s “bust” was crafted with an eye for big media dramaturgy.
"They all met in nearby Forsyth before coming here together. We were not informed of the raid at all and I learned of it only when I went downtown for coffee that morning and saw all the cameras. It is my understanding that the local police chief and sheriff were notified only 15 minutes before the raids," Walter Geiger, Editor of the local newspaper, The Herald-Gazette, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Oxendine told the Associated Press at the time, "even though the vehicle owners thought they were obeying the law, the taxis and limos must be pulled off the road because they are not legally insured….There will probably be some businesses that go under because of this.''
Any disruption in taxicab service could have a major impact on metro Atlanta's $3.5 billion convention and tourism industry. It also could affect operations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports, The Atlanta Journal Constitution said.
Not only would the big cab companies which funded Oxendine benefit from Oxendine’s actions by their competitors being pulled off the road; also their insurance companies lost a major competitor when Waterhouse was shut down.
A hearing was scheduled for Robert Waterhouse on March 18, 2005. He was released on $25,000 bond.
In September, all charges were dismissed.
On the same day, March 18, 2005, Oxendine withdrew his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.
The thing is, Waterhouse’s cab insurance agency appears completely legitimate.
Waterhouse’s cab insurance agency was co-owned by his father, Godfrey Waterhouse, 63, who lives in New Zealand. Godfrey Waterhouse told APN he had been placing customers' insurance with Contractors Bonding Limited (CBL), located in Auckland, for several years.
When the Georgia Insurance Code was changed, only companies domiciled in the US became permitted to issue certain types of policies.
CBL executives then assured Waterhouse they were taking over Mark Solofa Insurance, located in American Somoa. CBL faxed Waterhouse a copy of Solofa's Certificate of Authority from the American Somoan Insurance Department. Being located in a US territory, Solofa would qualify under the Georgia law.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) approved Solofa as having the necessary monetary reserves and issued them a code number which would permit them to write business in this state. CBL would continue to broker the policies.
As far as Waterhouses' customers were concerned, everything remained the same except the name on the insurance policy and their state-mandated proof of insurance read Mark Solofa Insurance instead of Contractors Bonding Limited. The Waterhouses continued to have all claims adjusted by Nolan & Co. as they had for many years.
For the next two years, the Waterhouses continued submitting their quarterly surplus lines tax returns to the Georgia Insurance Department showing the name of the company as Mark Solofa.
Oxendine informed the media his investigators uncovered the alleged scam in January 2005 when a Columbus cab company filed a complaint about a claim with Oxendine's office. He said that's when "we found out that [the Waterhouses] had not written any insurance policies."
Up until Robert's arrest, Geoff Waterhouse said they were never contacted by Oxendine, nor anyone from his office, nor anyone from any law enforcement agency, nor DA Milam, nor anyone from Milam's office. "We have ALWAYS dealt directly with CBL and it would be very easy to confirm this from our phone bills, our bank records and with Nolan & Co who did all the claims adjusting," Waterhouse wrote. He told APN that they would have been happy to turn their records over to any authority who had asked.
When Atlanta Progressive News was first informed of the story from a phonecall from New Zealand, we were able, within minutes, to check the Contractors Bonding Limited website, www.contractorsbonding.com ( As of 31st December 2003, CBL's Shareholders Funds stood at $20m ), the Nolan & Co. website, www.nolanandcompany.com ( Thomas S. Nolan, President and General Adjuster, has 28 years of claim adjusting experience etc.) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website, www.naic.org/cis/index.do (MARK SOLOFA INS CO, NAIC#: 11554 Home Office: American Samoa, Business Type: Property/Casualty ) to establish they all appeared to be legitimate businesses as Waterhouse claimed.
Guy Drexinger, Oxendine's opponent, said, "I have pledged not to accept any contributions from the insurance industry and publicly supported legislation this session that would ban contributions to candidates for Insurance Commissioner from out of state insurance companies."
CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this story stated Robert Waterhouse claimed he was falsely arrested. That communication came from Godfrey "Geoff" Waterhouse, not Robert. The Waterhouses ran an insurance agency, not an insurance company. Also, Atlanta Progressive News does know yet whether the assets which were frozen are missing. The story was been changed to reflect these items.
Betty Clermont is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at email@example.com
This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.