Insurance Broker/Charity Exec Quits; Lawyer Says He’s Innocent

By | September 22, 2008

The top executive of a Utah-based children’s charity has resigned, the same day he was in court on felony charges related to his insurance business.

James Larry Hall II was president and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network, which raises money for children’s hospitals across North America. The Deseret News reported that IRS filings show Hall was paid a $333,404 salary.

The Children’s Miracle Network — an organization founded by the Osmond family and “Dukes of Hazzard” actor John Schneider — said the charges have nothing to do with the charity.

Hall appeared in 3rd District Court on six felony counts accusing him of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premiums from a trust account to finance a house and a company jet.

Hall was prepared to plead no contest to the charges, but in a stunning turnaround, the judge said the state lacked evidence Hall had committed a crime, and he refused to accept the plea, according to Hall’s lawyer.

Hall denies any wrongdoing but was willing to take a plea deal to “get it out of his life,” said lawyer Max Wheeler.

Judge Deno Himonas challenged a state prosecutor to return to court on Oct. 7 with evidence that Hall allegedly used $400,000 of insurance premiums to finance a house, Wheeler said.

Hall, owner of National Benefit Partners Insurance Agency, wasn’t involved in transactions involving subordinates of the company that briefly deposited the $400,000 in his personal account around the time he was buying a house, Wheeler said.

“He wasn’t even in town when this happened,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler insisted Hall used his own money to buy the house, but he couldn’t fully explain why money from a trust account went to a company operating account and to Hall’s personal account and back again. “It was a convoluted, confusing transaction,” Wheeler said.

The allegations involving Hall’s insurance business date to 2003, before he took the top job at Children’s Miracle Network in 2006.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press the charity’s board said it has appointed Scott Burt, the chief operating officer, to take over.

Hall resigned “in light of reports concerning private business activities that took place prior to his employment with Children’s Miracle Network,” the organization said. “The Children’s Miracle Network Board of Trustees was unaware of those activities until Sept. 17.”

Assistant Utah Attorney General Shelley Coudreaut didn’t return two phone messages from the AP.

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