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Oklahoma Insurance Department spends $180K on guns, police vehicles

The Oklahoma Insurance Department spent more than $180,000 on high-tech shotguns, bulletproof vests and seven police-package vehicles that agency officials say were needed as part of its expanded focus on criminal insurance fraud.

By SEAN MURPHY, AP Published: November 30, 2012
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“There's a lot of very bad actors involved in insurance fraud, and it's millions and millions of dollars at stake.”

Doak said he has placed a greater emphasis on the department's anti-fraud unit since he was elected in 2010. He also recently began working with local law enforcement agencies to establish vehicle insurance checkpoints, and recently joined the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office at a checkpoint operation there. Doak said he plans to expand that practice in 2013.

Doak also stressed that the expenditures were not from state appropriations, but rather from a revolving fund created by lawmakers two years ago that receives money from fees, fines, penalties and settlements. The account is used to fund the agency's anti-fraud division and received a huge boost last year when $1.6 million was deposited as a result of Oklahoma's portion of a multi-state settlement with insurance and financial services company American International Group, or AIG.

“This wasn't funded at taxpayer's expense,” Doak said.

Before the expenditures were made, Murphey said officials at the insurance department had told him they feared lawmakers would take money from the revolving fund and spend it in other areas of the state budget.

“I think the department was afraid that the Legislature would see that balance and raid the fund, so they went looking for investment opportunities, and this was one of them,” Murphey said. “I really counseled against it and expressed some concern.”

In an Aug. 31 email to Michael Copeland, the head of the department's anti-fraud unit, Murphey also voiced his concern about the agency using law enforcement vehicles.

“I believe the aesthetics of police units with the Department of Insurance markings are terrible from a public perception point of view,” Murphey wrote. “Additionally, since the department is led by an elected official this action could certainly create the perception that the markings are in place for political reasons.”

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Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy