AIG Life Insurance Company is suing Bishop Acen Phillips, accusing him of defrauding the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to federal court documents filed Tuesday morning, AIG claimed the head of the American Church United "falsified paperwork and then fraudulently claimed that non-members had been enrolled ACU members at the time of their death."
The 30-page document also accused Phillips of altering beneficiary forms to beef up insurance proceeds and using two criminally convicted and disbarred attorneys to craft a bogus letter to AIG.
AIG wants Phillips to repay more than $350,000 and accuses the bishop of insurance fraud, stealing money and racketeering.
"Defendants had a financial incentive to file false claims with AIG because they made themselves the beneficiaries -- in some cases, the entire beneficiaries -- of those claims," the court filing said.
The filing also said, "Defendants repeatedly committed fraud by knowingly making false statements and by keeping and submitting false records to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from AIG."
The 7NEWS Investigators first reported that Phillips had taken out a $100,000 life insurance policy on Shely Lowe, the deceased live-in girlfriend of Aaron Thompson.
7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski broke the story late January. He spoke to Lowe's loved ones, including Thompson, who said they had never seen the insurance policy nor had they known that she had taken one out with Phillips' churches as the beneficiaries.
Kovaleski confronted Phillips about the insurance policy, which has his signature on it and was written by his church for Lowe.
"Where'd you get that from?" Phillips asked.
"Do you recognize that document?" Kovaleski asked.
"I'm not going to comment. I need you to talk to my attorney about that," Phillips said.
"That's Shely Lowe's insurance policy," Kovaleski said.
"Yeah," Phillips said.
Lowe was a person of interest in the disappearance of 6-year old Aarone Thompson. After Lowe's death last May, Phillips wrote a letter requesting AIG pay 90 percent of the $100,000 policy to two of the bishop's churches.
According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, it is one of 12 claims made by the bishop on hundreds of policies he's accused of fraudulently writing.
The lawsuit said AIG payed seven claims before it discovered what it calls "this fraudulant scheme." Those seven totalled more than $600,000, with more than half of that money going to Phillips' churches and family members.
AIG said it is attempting to resolve the five remaining policies, one of which is Shely Lowe's $100,000 policy.
"You know and I know, it doesn't look good," Kovaleski said to Phillips.
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that. I think when you hear the real story, it'll look real good," Phillips said.
Nearly six weeks have passed since that interview, but Phillips has not yet spoken about "the real story" behind the insurance business.
"There will be a time when I make a statement. Based on the advise of my attorney, you've got the statement I can make at this point and you've got what they accuse me of and I cannot make another statement beyond that point at this time," Phillips told 7NEWS on Tuesday.
The statement Phillips' attorney released said, "AIG is a multi-billion dollar insurance company with its own history with law enforcement. They have hired an ex-prosecutor to bully Bishop Phillips. The response to these various civil accusations will be responded to in court, not in the media."
Besides the civil suit, Phillips also faces a criminal investigation. Both the FBI and Colorado's attorney general are looking into the matter. The FBI and the Colorado attorney general will meet later this week with representatives of AIG to discuss the evidence collected by the insurance company.
When asked about the insurance policy, and if there was a plausible reason for the bishop's insurance policy on Lowe, Sam Riddle, who was a family friend, said, "Yeah, pimping death and enriching oneself. That's all I can see ... It's just a shame that an individual who purports to be a man of god such as Bishop Phillips purports to be, would stoop to pimping death in this manner. It's simply wrong."
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