9 Investigates: 108-count insurance fraud case dropped against Charlotte man

CHARLOTTE — Months after a North Carolina Department of Insurance investigation put a Charlotte man behind bars for 108 counts of insurance fraud, prosecutors have dropped every charge.

Eyewitness News reported in June 2014 that a state investigation led to the arrest of Ron Pierce. The Department of Insurance sent out a news release and did interviews to discuss its work.

"A Charlotte contractor is in jail, accused of pocketing more than $450,000 in insurance claims," Channel 9 reported at the time.

Investigators claimed that Pierce inflated hail damage repair estimates. Police arrested him and put him in jail on a $540,000 bond.

"People who fraudulently file insurance claims and receive compensation from insurance companies affect what we all pay for our insurance," said Marni Schribman, who was a spokeswoman for the Department of Insurance in 2014.

Ten months after a DOI investigator sought a warrant for Pierce's arrest in April 2015, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office has dismissed all charges.


"After careful review of the case, prosecutors dismissed the charges due to insufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Meghan McDonald, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said. "The charges arose from the deposit of checks into Pierce's business account without the proper signatures of the insured and/or the mortgage company. However, these monies would have been, in fact, legitimately paid to Pierce's companies for the work rendered, making it a significant challenge to prove any fraudulent intent."
 
Pierce filed a federal lawsuit against Department of Insurance officials, including Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, in February. He told Channel 9 that he believes the case against him was retaliation for complaints he made about how the department was regulating the insurance industry.
 
"They're using that office to punish individuals who stand up against them," Pierce said.
 
The lawsuit accuses the department of "false imprisonment" and "retaliatory prosecution."
 
The Department of Insurance declined Channel 9's requests for an interview with Goodwin about the matter. However, in a statement to Channel 9, it said it stands by its Criminal Investigations Division.
 
"The criminal investigator had probable cause to seek warrants in the Ronald L. Pierce cases," Department of Insurance spokesman Colin Day said. "The independent magistrate in Mecklenburg County found probable cause and issued warrants."
 
Even though the charges have been dismissed, Pierce said the damage is done.
 
"How do you get that stuff off the internet? You can't. I can't get these wrongful accusations against me off the internet," Pierce said.
 
Pierce ran for insurance commissioner in 2016 but lost in the Republican primary. He said he plans to run again in 2020.

If you have a tip about issues with the Department of Insurance, contact Reporter Blake Hanson at blake.hanson@wsoc-tv.com

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Read the full statement from the Department of Insurance:

"The Department stands behind the work of the Criminal Investigations Division. The criminal investigator had probable cause to seek warrants in the Ronald L. Pierce cases. The independent magistrate in Mecklenburg County found probable cause and issued warrants. Department of Insurance Criminal Investigators work with law enforcement officials and District Attorneys across the state on a daily basis. The Department recognizes the District Attorney has final say whether the cases will proceed to trial."

Read the full statement from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office:

"After careful review of the case, prosecutors dismissed the charges due to insufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The charges arose from the deposit of checks into Pierce's business account without the proper signatures of the insured and/or the mortgage company. However, these monies would have been, in fact, legitimately paid to Pierce's companies for the work rendered, making it a significant challenge to prove any fraudulent intent. In this case, there was no evidence putting the defendant at the bank depositing the check or depositing the money via mobile deposit and no evidence showing that the defendant deposited a check against an insured's wishes. Showing fraudulent intent would be a necessary element in such a case, and without evidence to prove such intent, prosecutors determined they could not successfully proceed with this case."