N. D. Insurance Agent Accused of $5 Million Theft From Clients

August 7, 2008

A judge has set bail at $100,000 cash or bond for a Fargo insurance agent accused of stealing more than $5 million from clients.

Larry Atkins, 65, appeared on Aug. 5 in East Central District Court on charges of engaging in fraudulent practices, selling unregistered securities, transacting business as an unregistered agent and exploiting a vulnerable adult. In all, he faces 78 felony counts.

Defense attorney Jeff Bredahl asked Judge Steven L. Marquart to release Atkins on a promise to appear, or to set bail at a nominal fee. Marquart agreed with prosecutors’ recommendation for $100,000 bail.

“These are serious charges here,” the judge said. He set a preliminary hearing for Sept. 4.

Atkins kept his head bowed as attorneys argued about bail. Prosecutor Cherie Clark said Atkins is a flight risk and a danger to himself.

“We feel this is a serious crime. He has destroyed many people’s lives,” Clark said.

Bredahl said Atkins told authorities about the status of all his finances.

“To say that Mr. Atkins has not cooperated with the state Securities Department is a fallacy,” Bredahl said.

The defense attorney also said Atkins could have fled after his former business partner, David Skjerven, pleaded guilty in February to defrauding investors. Under a plea agreement, Skjerven was ordered serve two years in prison and repay more than $1.3 million.

“He (Atkins) knew he was next in line,” Bredahl said.

Atkins is accused of promising high returns to new investors and then using the money to pay off interest and principal payments of original investors. Clark said there are more than 30 victims, including 20 of retirement age whose net worth and homes were stolen.

“They’re left destitute and without resources because they’re past retirement age,” Clark said.

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm ordered Atkins to stop selling insurance in late April.

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