Miss. Insurance Agent Takes Plea Deal

A Mississippi insurance agent accused in a kickback scheme with a former Lafayette County supervisor has pleaded guilty to conspiracy under a plea deal in U.S. District Court.

Ken Nowlin, of Ecru, avoids a federal trial with the deal and could testify against Gary Massey. The former supervisor’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 1.

Prosecutors charged Nowlin and Massey with conspiracy, public corruption and money laundering in a 41-count indictment. They allegedly received more than $827,000 in commissions and fees during Massey’s tenure on the board from 1996 to 2004 that they should not have accepted.

Authorities say Massey’s share was more than $235,000. He is running for a seat on the board of supervisors again and faces five other Democrats in the Aug. 7 primary.

The indictment alleges that Massey, a former insurance agent, and Nowlin violated federal law by Nowlin’s paying what federal prosecutors termed “a commission” to Massey for the Lafayette County Employee Health Care contract.

Before he became a supervisor in 1995, Massey was the insurance agent of record for Lafayette County. Federal prosecutors claim Massey used his influence to get Nowlin the job as insurance agent of record in exchange for the commission.

Prosecutors said Nowlin would receive payment for services in two checks made out to his office from plan administrator Total Plan Services. Nowlin took the checks and told his office to write a separate one to Massey for a “consulting fee.”

Despite attempts made by local insurance providers, no outside bids were accepted during Massey’s tenure, prosecutors said. During that time the health insurance premium rose from $112 per employee to $948.

Under the plea deal, Nowlin faces up to five years in prison and a fine of no more than $250,000.