Accused of deceiving the sick and uninsured, CEO pleads guilty - WSMV News 4

Accused of deceiving the sick and uninsured, CEO pleads guilty

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Nine years after News4 I-Team hidden cameras captured managers in a south Nashville company using scare tactics against desperate people in need of health insurance, the CEO of the business pleaded guilty to two crimes in federal court.

After pleading guilty to criminal contempt and mail fraud charges, Tim Thomas, 55,  must liquidate $1.5 million in assets to pay his former customers. 

When he is sentenced on June 25,  he will face up to 63 months in federal prison and may be told to pay even more to customers for damages. 

Thomas was the CEO of United Benefits of America, a company that prosecutors say convinced customers that they were buying major health insurance, when in fact they were buying into membership associations with discount cards.

Customers across the country told the I-Team those discount cards barely covered their medical expenses.

In 2009, the News4 I-Team sent hidden cameras into the company, capturing managers using scare tactics to frighten customers into buying their products.

Our cameras captured one manager instructing how to use the TAFT method, which stood for “tell them any f****** thing.”

Another manager described how he frightened customers into buying products.

"We can't let them take an hour, we can't let them take a day," the manager said. "They buy now or they pretty much come down with cancer by tomorrow. This is a do-or-die type of thing."

In federal court, Judge David Lawson grilled Thomas, asking if he was aware of what his company was doing.

“Did you attempt to sell membership under the idea that customers were getting major medical insurance?” Lawson asked.

“Yes,” Thomas said.

“Was that fraudulent?” Lawson asked.

“Yes,” Thomas said.

“Did you intend to deceive?” Lawson asked.

“Yes,” Thomas said.

Thomas said in court the company made approximately $15 million, of which he received 30 percent.

In the midst of our investigation, the company was shut down by government investigators.

The FTC ultimately ordered Thomas to liquidate resources in order to pay customers $1 million.

Thomas will find out on June 25 what additional money he will have to pay to customers.

That day will be a family affair; his wife, Keenan, will also be sentenced that day, too, after pleading to criminal contempt charges herself. 

Thomas’ attorney told the News4 I-Team he had no comment.

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