Indicted Alabama Insurance Executive Claims Political Retaliation

April 9, 2008

A Montgomery, Ala. insurance executive indicted by a federal grand jury is blaming his legal problems on political retaliation by Republicans, including the governor, a politician the executive once supported but later sued.

“If these politicians think they can intimidate me, the message to them is to strap up, the truth is going to come out,” John W. Goff said in a statement Monday.

Republican Gov. Bob Riley is on a trade mission to China. His spokesman, Todd Stacy, said, “Gov. Riley has nothing to do with Mr. Goff’s legal problems.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin declined comment on Goff’s statement.

Franklin announced last week that a federal grand jury indicted Goff on 26 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy and embezzlement. The charges accuse Goff of fraudulently collecting worker compensation insurance premiums for two companies and not sending about $3 million to them.

“Instead, Goff kept the premiums and spent the money for his own personal expenditures, including his exorbitant salary, lavish lifestyle, corporate aircraft and real estate investments,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release last week.

Goff’s company, the Goff Group, was once a major supplier of worker compensation insurance to businesses statewide and had more than 200 employees in a large office building along Interstate 85 in east Montgomery. Goff’s fortunes changed in 2004, when the state Insurance Department filed an administrative complaint against it involving some of the same issues covered by the federal charges.

Goff’s statement Monday said he thought he had settled the matter by admitting to one count in the administrative complaint in 2005.

In March 2007, Goff sued Riley, the governor’s insurance commissioner, Walter Bell, former Republican Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and others, accusing them of working together to wreck Goff’s insurance business. Goff’s suit is still in the early stages.

The relationship between Riley and Goff was once different. Riley used Goff’s plane twice during the former congressman’s 2002 campaign for governor. Riley’s campaign said they were in-kind contributions, but at Goff’s insistence, the Riley campaign paid him $25,000 last year for the flights.

Goff said he learned last fall that a federal grand jury was looking at him.

He said he will fight the federal charges and push his lawsuit.

“I am innocent, and if they think I am backing off my civil lawsuit then they can think again,” Goff said.

Franklin is serving as acting U.S. attorney in the case because the U.S. attorney, Leura Canary, stepped aside from the case last fall. Her husband, William Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, has been a leading supporter of Riley.

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