Former lawmaker: NC Ins. Commissioner failed to act on disqualified bail agent

Questions for NC Dept. Insurance
Published: Aug. 5, 2016 at 1:04 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2016 at 1:07 AM EDT
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MOORESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A former state lawmaker from the Charlotte-area is calling on North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin to take action against a bail bond surety company that was formed by a group of investors that included a man disqualified from the bail business.

Former State Representative Robert Brawley wrote Goodwin a complaint late last month expressing his frustration with the Department of Insurance's failure to act to shut down a company Brawley invested in.

Brawley says he invested $850,000 into Cannon Surety, which underwrites bail bonds written by bail agents across the state, after being approached by a group of people involved in the bail industry in late 2014.

"It seemed like practically every time they came by they would be talking about things that needed to be done to make life more honest and put integrity into the bail bond business," Brawley said of the trio that approached him about forming Cannon.

Brawley told On Your Side Investigates he thought he was getting into business with honest people.

Now, nearly two years later, he has discovered one of the men in the company's leadership should not be in the bail business at all and the Department of Insurance has been slow to take action.

A business plan obtained by On Your Side Investigates outlining Cannon Surety's operation shows the company would be managed by a group of five people, including Brawley and a man named Carl Valentine.

"Carl Valentine is a career military engineer. He has two decades of experience in bail bonding in NC and surrounding states. He has extensive experience with several surety companies at different levels, including recruiting. He currently has over 35 agents statewide, writing 19.8 million in bonds last year. Carl has more knowledge in bonding than any other bondsman in NC. He is at the top of his game," the business plan reads.

But documents accessed on the North Carolina Department of Insurance's website show Valentine surrendered his bail license in 2012 and has been denied bail-related licenses twice since then.

According to the DOI's licensure database, Valentine surrendered his producer license in February 2012, was denied a license as a bail bond runner in September 2012 and was denied a surety bail bondsman license in June 2016.

Despite the disqualification, Cannon Surety received a license to operate with Valentine having been listed as a manager in the company's business plan.

Valentine ultimately sold his ownership stake in Cannon to another man in the group who approached Brawley about investing in the company, Dallas McClain, in November 2014.

But Brawley said Valentine continues to play an active role in running Cannon Surety and Goodwin and regulators at the Department of Insurance failed to take action.

"Unfortunately, I was not informed that a huge part of this group's representation involved financials from a disqualified individual, Carl Valentine. It was not disclosed to me that the NCDOI had been allowing this self-appointed managing general agent to manage insurance agents after receiving multiple disqualifications in 2012," Brawley wrote in his letter to Goodwin last month.

State law makes it illegal for anyone disqualified from holding a bail license to be involved in the bail bond business. The law also makes it illegal for other licensed individuals to be in business with someone who has been disqualified.

"All three of them knew that Carl Valentine was disqualified back in 2012," Brawley said of the trio that approached him about investing in Cannon. "So they never should have set up a company to start with and the Department of Insurance knew that. They were the ones handling the disqualification."

A representative for Cannon Surety, contacted by phone for comment in response to this investigation, declined to offer an explanation. Valentine did not return an email seeking comment.

A spokesman for Goodwin declined to make him available for an interview despite first saying he was trying to schedule a chance for the Commissioner to answer our questions.

As a law enforcement agency, the North Carolina Department of Insurance is unable to comment," Goodwin's spokesman, Colin Day, wrote in an email.

The Department of Insurance maintains a division of sworn law enforcement investigators but is made up of other divisions that regulate companies in a non-law enforcement capacity.

"I do think the Department of Insurance is very slack, they're not doing their job and they are hurting the public in North Carolina," Brawley said.

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