An Isle of Palms man has been identified by numerous states, including South Carolina, as a central figure in an alleged multimillion-dollar nationwide insurance fraud.
Scott Richardson, director of the S.C. Department of Insurance, issued an emergency cease-and-desist order Wednesday naming William M. Worthy II and others for allegedly selling fake medical policies that have triggered at least $19 million in unpaid claims around the country.
The S.C. Attorney General's office plans to investigate the matter, the department said.
In addition to Worthy, the case involves 13 businesses and at least five other individuals, including a Blythewood lawyer who serves as a town council member.
Worthy is a former Spartanburg resident whose last known residential address is in the tony Wild Dunes Resort.
The Department of Insurance said at least 269 South Carolina residents bought policies, though the number that were sold nationwide is unclear. As of last month the operation left $19 million in unpaid claims, the state said in its order.
The department said the alleged scam involved "limited benefit" health insurance offered through various associations. Worthy, operating unlicensed through a network of organizations and in cooperation with one or more Pakistani entities, sold the fake policies and also attempted to buy insurance companies, Richardson said.
"Unfortunately, scams such as this one leave those South Carolinians who can least afford it stuck with unpaid medical bills, which they thought were covered by insurance," Richardson said in a written statement.
At least eight other states have taken action to halt the policy sales, including Texas, New Hampshire and Missouri. A parallel case involving "the same people and entities" named in South Carolina's order prompted officials to seize and liquidate two unauthorized insurance firms in Tennessee last month, Richardson said.
Also, the sales scheme was highlighted in a recent news report on the CBS program "The Early Show."
All the individuals named in Richardson's order were from outside South Carolina, except Worthy and Kathleen D. Cauthen, a Blythewood attorney who serves as a councilwoman in the Midlands town.
The Department of Insurance said Worthy has had "several" disciplinary run-ins with regulators in the past.
For example, South Carolina revoked his license in 2006 after finding that he misappropriated premiums from insurers and consumers, the agency said. In that instance, Cauthen served as his lawyer.
Worthy could not be reached to comment on Wednesday's order. The listed telephone number for his home has been disconnected. Cauthen did not respond to requests for comments.