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Associated Press, Published August 20 2010

Convicted agent due $34K benefit, court rules

BISMARCK – An insurance agent who was found guilty of running a federal farm payment scam is still entitled to a $34,000 annuity he earned from his sales in the year he was convicted, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled.

Duane Huber, of Wimbledon in rural Barnes County, served more than four years in prison on federal tax charges, as well as charges of fraud, money laundering and making false statements. He was accused of running sham farms to avoid federal limits on farm program payments.

The North Dakota Farmers Union’s insurance companies argued they did not owe Huber the money because the state insurance commissioner barred him from doing any insurance business shortly after his conviction in November 2002.

Southeast District Judge John Greenwood ruled Huber should receive the $34,534 annuity because Farmers Union wasn’t able to fire him until January 2003. Huber’s employment contract said he was entitled to 30 days’ notice before he was fired, and the company did not send the notice until Dec. 5, 2002.

The Supreme Court affirmed Greenwood’s ruling Tuesday and said he was correct in awarding Huber interest on the amount he was owed.

“The termination provisions of the local agent’s agreements are clear and explicit,” Justice Mary Muehlen Maring wrote in the court’s unanimous decision. “The termination provisions require 30 days’ notice ... If Farmers Union wanted the right to terminate immediately for ‘good cause,’ it could have included that provision in the agreements. It did not.”

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