Former state Sen. Eric Stewart has been charged in Franklin County, Tenn., with theft and fraud stemming from a continuing investigation into his insurance business, according to court records and officials.
Stewart was charged in a two-count indictment issued Monday with theft over $500 and committing a fraudulent insurance act during the period between Nov. 22, 2009, and Nov. 4, 2013, Franklin County Circuit Court records show.
He was released on a $5,000 bond with an arraignment set for Nov. 15.
Stewart's legal counsel, Chattanooga attorney Lee Davis, said his client has been "cooperating with federal and state investigators in this matter for many weeks."
Davis said Stewart made arrangements with authorities to turn himself in on Tuesday.
Stewart, a former Franklin County commissioner, served as House representative for the 14th District between 2008 and 2012. In November 2012, he ran on the Democrat ticket for the 4th District U.S. Congress seat against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DeJarlais, but lost his bid.
The Times Free Press has reported on some of Stewart's financial problems.
He was sued by Citibank in 2011 for failing to pay on nearly $5,000 in credit card debt, Franklin County General Sessions Court records show.
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service slapped Stewart with two property liens totaling nearly $25,000 in 2002 and 2011 for not paying his personal and business taxes on time.
The lien related to his personal taxes later was paid off and removed in 2003, and the other was resolved during the campaign, Franklin County Register of Deeds records show.
Court records identify the victims in Stewart's theft and fraud case as Don and Bonnie Plattenburg.
The Plattenburgs paid Stewart $750 for an insurance policy for their company, 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor said.
Stewart was an independent insurance agent when he "sold the local contractor a policy of workman's compensation insurance" but Stewart "did not actually obtain the insurance coverage. He converted the premium to his own use and the contractor ended up with no workman's comp insurance," Taylor said.
Taylor said state contractor licensing officials found that the Plattenburgs' company was not covered and alerted them.
The case initially was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation then turned back over to state officials for prosecution under state law, officials said.
Taylor said the investigation is continuing and "there may be other developments, but that remains to be seen."
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...
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