Federal jury convicts county worker in auto insurance fraud case

A senior county human resources analyst was convicted in federal court Thursday in a scheme to steal $824,000 from a national auto insurance company.

Erik Holman, 49, who has worked for Clark County since 2002, was found guilty of one conspiracy count and 14 wire fraud counts in the scheme to defraud the Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance between October 2005 and April 2009.

He was accused of conspiring with his late “life partner,” former Henderson Municipal Judge John Provost, who ran the company’s claims litigation office in Las Vegas.

Provost, 48, who served on the Henderson bench from 1996 to 2003, committed suicide by overdosing on the prescription painkiller oxycodone in July 2009, three months after the scheme was exposed. He later was named as an unindicted co-conspirator when Holman was charged following an investigation by the FBI’s public corruption squad.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan set a June 5 sentencing for Holman, who is free on his own recognizance. Holman did not take the witness stand in his own defense during the four-day trial.

He held back his emotions while the guilty verdict was read, but after the jury and the judge left the courtroom, he sobbed at the defense table and was consoled by his new life partner.

Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden praised the verdict.

“Fraud is not a victimless crime and fraud offenses come in all different types and schemes,” Bogden said. “We take fraud offenses seriously no matter one’s occupation or job title. ”

Prior to the trial, federal prosecutors disclosed evidence that Holman and Provost had a suicide pact. Holman told friends that he and Provost kept a “suicide kit” containing a mixture of ground-up prescription pills, according to court documents.

But Mahan barred the government from introducing the evidence during the trial.

In his closing argument Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Damm described the scheme to defraud American Family Insurance as “ingenious” and said Holman was a willing participant out of greed.

Damm said Provost created phony invoices for private investigative work Holman didn’t do for American Family Insurance. Then, he wrote checks to Holman and deposited them into bank accounts, including one the two men shared.

Holman used money stolen from the insurance company as his “personal slush fund” to take cruises and trips overseas, Damm said.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Raquel Lazo contended in her closing argument that Provost, who had a hidden gambling addiction, acted alone and, like the insurance company, betrayed Holman.

“He had a secret life, and he left a trail of betrayal,” said Lazo, who tried the case with Assistant Federal Public Defender Brenda Weksler.

Lazo told the jury that Provost, who handled the couple’s expenses, made Holman an unwitting pawn in the embezzlement scheme, pouring money into their joint bank account without his knowledge.

The defense lawyers said after the verdict that they plan to file a motion asking Mahan to overturn Holman’s conviction.