FBI Says School District Consultant Helped Insurance Broker Get Contracts

William O. Haff leaves the John Wood Federal Courthouse Thursday March 31, 2016. Haff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud stemming from an F.B.I. public corruption investigation. Photo: John Davenport /San Antonio Express-News / ©San Antonio Express-News/John Davenport

William O. Haff leaves the John Wood Federal Courthouse Thursday March 31, 2016. Haff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud stemming from an F.B.I. public corruption investigation.

William Oliver Haff, 46, of San Antonio admitted that while working for the consulting company hired by the school districts — Wortham Insurance and Risk Management — he was also getting paid on the side by an insurance agent/broker so its clients would land contracts to provide employee insurance there.

FBI says school district consultant helped insurance broker get contracts

Guillermo Contreras | March 31, 2016

An insurance consultant pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge, admitting he helped corrupt the selection process by which insurance companies were chosen at San Antonio and Edgewood independent school districts.

William Oliver Haff, 46, of San Antonio admitted that while working for the consulting company hired by the school districts — Wortham Insurance and Risk Management — he was also getting paid on the side by an insurance agent/broker so its clients would land contracts to provide employee insurance there.

Haff, who was secretly indicted in 2015, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The case arose as part of a larger public corruption investigation by the FBI that could stretch to other districts in South Texas, records show.

Haff’s plea paperwork said school districts already were paying him for his services under contracts that prohibited him from getting paid separately by any insurance provider or from revealing bid information to providers. He did both, according to plea documents, but it didn’t harm the school districts, his attorney said.

“With what we’re involved with, the school districts didn’t lose any money,” said Haff’s lawyer, Anthony Cantrell. “We’re not ordered to pay back any money.”

The plea documents said that, between March 13, 2008, and Feb. 16, 2010, Haff was paid $64,585 by Sam Mullen, who had been chief financial officer of the Mullen Pension and Benefit Group LLP.

mullen

In exchange, Haff provided Mullen and Josh Cerna, who was the vice president of strategic markets for the Mullen Group, information regarding the districts’ requests for proposals that was not available to competitors of the Mullen group. Mullen and Cerna, who are not charged in the case, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Haff also regularly provided Mullen and Cerna information about upcoming school district requests for proposals and about the districts’ decision-making process, which competitors also didn’t get, Haff’s plea paperwork said.

Haff also sought to influence the boards of trustees for the districts to award contracts to clients of the Mullen Group by making formal recommendations, the documents said.

For instance, on July 14, 2008, Haff recommended to the SAISD board that the district award an insurance contract to H. Corp., one of the Mullen Group’s clients. Mullen provided Haff with a check for $1,250 five days before Haff made the recommendation to the board, the plea deal said.

Wortham, the consulting firm, fired Haff in 2014, a lawyer for the company said.

Adam Cortez, the Mullen Group’s lawyer, distanced the corporation from Sam Mullen and Cerna, who was a Harlandale Independent School District trustee during the period in question. Cortez said the pair have not been with the Mullen Group for some time. Mullen’s wife runs the company but she and Sam Mullen are divorcing and she was unaware of Haff’s alleged nefarious dealings with her husband and Cerna, Cortez said.

“All our negotiations are done ethically and in compliance with the law,” Cortez said. “We won’t have it any other way.”

In June 2014, SAISD changed its insurance consultant from Wortham to another company, district spokeswoman Leslie Price said. The district has changed its consulting company again since then, Price said.

“This is the first we’ve learned of this,” Price said Thursday. “We certainly are going to look into it. It’s very troubling to hear of this.”

Eddie Rodriguez, an Edgewood trustee, said he had been unaware of the matter, but that it raises legitimate questions the board might want to get answered.

“It would be something we need to look into,” he said. “How connected is Edgewood to all of this? Is anyone else involved?”

Haff, who is out on bond, faces up to five years in prison when U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez sentences him on July 13.

gcontreras@express-news.net

Twitter: @gmaninfedland

Editor’s Note: Edgewood ISD is currently seeking competitive proposals for their group health insurance program.

 

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