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Former insurance agent faces fraud trial

A former Orem insurance agent will stand trial in March on 12 felony counts in connection with allegations that he misused clients' insurance premiums.

Kipp G. Wilkinson, 35, is charged with six counts of unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, five counts of diverting trust funds and one count of theft by deception. Wilkinson pleaded not guilty on all counts during an arraignment in 4th District Court Tuesday.Ten of the charges are second-degree felonies, and the other two are third-degree felonies.

Wilkinson's appearance Tuesday was scheduled to be a preliminary hearing. But after Assistant Utah Attorney General David Gardner presented 17 former clients of the Leavitt Insurance Group and four other witnesses, Wilkinson waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He then immediately entered pleas on the 12 counts, and a five-day jury trial was set to begin March 16.

None of the witnesses testified because Wilkinson's attorney stipulated, or conceded, their testimonies. Most were business executives whose firms had issued checks to the Leavitt Insurance Group, Wilkinson's former employer, between 1983 and 1995.

Each of the former clients would have identified checks their companies wrote for insurance purposes and refund checks their businesses never received, Gardner said. Gardner offered a brief opening statement before Wilkinson waived his right to the preliminary hearing.

According to a court affidavit, Wilkinson deposited premiums paid by clients into two checking accounts and then withdrew funds from the accounts to pay personal expenses. Officials from the Leavitt Group found out about the accounts in April 1995 and conducted an audit that allegedly discovered a shortfall of premiums in the amount of approximately $230,000.

A court affidavit says the Leavitt Group made up for the missing premiums so no clients would lose insurance coverage. If convicted, Wilkinson could face a sentence of one to 15 years in prison.