DENVER – Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers announced today that his office has filed a twelve-count felony complaint against Reverend Acen L. Phillips (DOB 12/12/1951) in Arapahoe County District Court. The felony charges include seven counts of theft and five counts of forgery related to fraudulently obtaining life insurance proceeds from AIG Life Insurance Company. If convicted on all counts, Phillips could face a maximum prison term of 81 years and up to $5 million in fines.
The complaint alleges that Bishop Phillips forged several “designation of beneficiary” life insurance forms that resulted in the theft or attempted theft of life insurance proceeds in excess of $575,000 between July 2005 and May 2006. According to an affidavit filed by the lead investigator in the case, the forged signatures in question were those of deceased individuals and it is alleged the forms were often backdated to give the appearance of authenticity.
Among the claims made against the group AIG policy was a claim in the name of Shely Marie Lowe, who died on May 12, 2006, of heart failure. Ms. Lowe was the stepmother of missing child Aarone Thompson. The charge relating to this claim alleges that Bishop Phillips forged documents related to the life insurance claim resulting from the death of Ms. Lowe. The documents named the primary beneficiary of the policy as New Birth Church, with smaller percentages going to Aaron Thompson and American Church United (ACU).
According to the filed affidavit, there are instances where percentages and/or actual dollar amounts that family members thought were due to them as beneficiaries were altered to the substantial monetary benefit of ACU, New Birth Church, or Mt. Gilead Baptist Youth Job Mart. Reverend Phillips has access to all of these accounts and is the named CEO of ACU. The affidavit also asserts that an initial handwriting analysis suggests a high probability that the forms involved in this case submitted to AIG were all completed by the same person. The individual beneficiaries listed in the charges all stated in the affidavit that they dealt exclusively with Acen Phillips on all matters related to the claims.
The charges are a result of an extensive investigation by the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Unit with cooperation and assistance from the FBI and AIG Insurance Company. The Attorney General has statutory jurisdiction to prosecute cases involving insurance fraud. The case has been filed in Arapahoe County District Court and will be prosecuted by the Insurance Fraud Unit of the Attorney General’s Office. Rev. Phillips, through his attorney, has been notified of the criminal complaint and has been offered the opportunity to accept service. His initial court appearance is scheduled for September 19th at 8:30 A.M. in Arapahoe County. It should be noted, any criminal complaint is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty.