Suffolk man sentenced for pocketing policyholder's insurance premiums

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PORTMSOUTH, Virginia — A former insurance agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for pocketing a policyholder's premiums.

Joseph E. Barnes of Suffolk pleaded guilty this week in Portsmouth Circuit Court to obtaining money by false pretense.

Virginia State Police say Barnes sold a term life policy to Anitra Hawkins of Portsmouth and began collecting her monthly $30.95 premium in cash in July 2005. He stopped working for the insurer, Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company, in 2009 but continued to collect premiums from Hawkins until May 2014.

An investigation began in 2014 after Hawkins contacted the company with a question about her policy and learned that there wasn't one in effect.

State police say Barnes surrendered his insurance license. The company returned the premium payments to Hawkins.

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