Garry Insurancecenter employee pleads guilty to wire fraud


Minnesota Municipal Power Agency recently installed a solar array at North High School as part of the Hometown Solar Grant program. submitted photo

John Rowan admits to stealing $1.2 million

John William Rowan had been a trusted employee of Garry Insurancecenter in downtown North St. Paul since he started working for the agency in 1991, but that trust was shattered when he was discovered stealing money from the company’s co-owners, Joe Garry and Dave Szczepanski.

“I think after you know and trust somebody for so many years and believe them to be a good person, yes it’s always a shock when you find something like this,” Garry said in an interview after Rowan entered a guilty plea in federal court on Jan. 19. Rowan, who lives in Mahtomedi, was the company’s accountant and later promoted to controller.

Garry said he was the first to discover Rowan’s startling betrayal.

“He was on vacation. I was looking for some records and happened to find the file that indicated he may have stolen some funds, and when he returned from that vacation, I confronted him about it and he admitted it at that time,” Garry said.

He added that Rowan was immediately fired and “ushered out the door.”

The criminal complaint states “Rowan was responsible for handling the financial affairs of [Garry Insurancecenter], including handling payroll, issuing company checks and serving as a signatory on the company’s bank accounts.” It also lays out the progression of Rowan’s fraudulent actions.

Starting in 1995, Rowan began falsely reporting his payment of insurance premiums to Garry Insurancecenter by making false entries in the company’s records for payments he never made.

In 1997, Rowan began issuing himself company checks for inflated quarterly bonus payments that he knew he was not entitled to, and in 2004 that progressed to also writing himself company checks for partner distributions.

Also starting in 2004, Rowan started writing himself company checks for cash that had no legitimate business purpose.

The criminal complaint states that in total, between December 1997 and July 2015, Rowan had written about 150 unauthorized company checks for his own use.

The North St. Paul Police Department handled the case in conjunction with the Minneapolis FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Together they determined that Rowan had defrauded Garry Insurancecenter of over $1,215,000, and charged him for over 20 years of wire fraud.

Wire fraud involves using a means of interstate electronic communication, typically a cell phone or computer, to defraud someone. 

In this case specifically, Rowan reportedly used electronic communication on Dec. 29, 2014, from a Wells Fargo bank branch in Minnesota to the Wells Fargo processing center in Birmingham, Alabama. The Birmingham Wells Fargo processed a $9,000 check from Garry Insurancecenter that was ultimately deposited into Rowan’s personal account.

Garry reassured the insurance agency’s customers that their premiums were all deposited correctly and that they “were not impacted at all” — not positively, not negatively.

“What [Rowan] did had absolutely no impact on anybody’s rates, on our company relationships or on the funds that anybody had in their accounts in the agency. 

“Essentially, he stole from the owners of the agency. That’s it. Nobody’s accounts were jeopardized. Nobody’s rates were changed. Nothing,” Garry said.

He added that the independent insurance company had also not been impacted.

“The business is doing well. It’s prospering — we’re doing very well in fact,” Garry said, explaining, “It’s the owners, Dave and I, that have taken a beating on this over 20 years.”

Rowan faces a maximum prison term of 20 years for his felony conviction. He will be sentenced in May.

“This was excellent teamwork done by our NSPPD investigations with coordination by the FBI and the US Attorney,” the police department stated on its Facebook page.

 

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at akinney@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7822.

This article was updated on February 3, 2017.

 

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