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Massage Today
September, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 09

IMA's Demise

By Ramon G. McLeod, Editor-in-Chief

Will Green, the owner and founder of the International Massage Association (IMA), a business that was once a major insurer for the massage therapy community, said in an interview that depression was behind his failure to pay for more than $600,000 in insurance premium payments, an action that has effectively destroy the business.

During the wide-ranging interview, Green reiterated a number of statements he had made in an e-mail he sent to the association's members that followed the original Massage Today story ("What Became of IMA", August 2010) that went online on July 19. In the e-mail, sent to members on July 21, he told members that he "began to sabotage" the association last year. IMA will go out of business formally at the end of this year, he said.

In the interview and the e-mail, Green said he became deeply depressed last year after he learned from federal agents that insurance brokers he worked with in the early part of this decade were under investigation for insurance fraud.

Green, in the interview, was asked directly why he stopped paying Markel Insurance the premiums owed them for at least six months, he said, "I don't know why, was it right or was it wrong? It was wrong," he said.

"I wasn't acting like me for six or eight months.

"Do I have answers why? No...Am I embarrassed, absolutely," he said.

Green also said he has paid the insurer two months of owed premiums for 2009-2010. And that he plans to pay three more months with the proceeds of the sale of his $2 million building in Warrenton, Va., IMA's headquarters. He said he hoped the sale would be finalized in a few weeks.

He said, in his original e-mail, that when he began to repay the insurance company, "My only option was to terminate our staff of 18 people and do the best I could to sell off assets and pay off my debt. I owe the money!"

He said he sold off vehicles, investments, business equipment and buildings to get the cash and make payments. He said that Markel continued to cover IMA members through the no-payment period and remain covered by their existing policies. "Everyone is covered at this point."

Asked what happened to the $600,000 he did not pay, and is now attempting to repay, Green said, "I spent some on payroll, it was used in the got eaten up in costs."

Court Case

Green has said several times that the fraud case was the trigger for depression and failure to pay premiums. That case involved Rodney R. Ayer, former president of Phoenix Underwriting Managers Inc. of New Jersey, who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud on July 2.

Ayer, and an unnamed company, only referred to as "Insurance Broker A-1" worked with two massage associations, IMA and Hands-On Trade Association, according to federal documents.

Bret VanLeeuven, owner of Green's former long-time insurance brokerage firm, Utah-based Stratus Insurance, Inc. insisted in an interview that his company, which works with massage associations, was not the "Insurance Broker A-1" named in the federal records.

VanLeeuven stated that was in partnership with Ayer at that time, "But there are other individuals involved in this case," he said. "They (the federal authorities) are talking to me, Green, and a lot of others. Everyone down the line."

The fraud case stems from a scheme uncovered in 2006. Federal records say that Ayer and the unnamed second broker pretended to have acquired coverage from Hannover Re, a multinational insurance carrier. Instead, according to court records, they took in premiums from the associations, paid out claims and expenses, while retaining underwriting profits that normally go to the insurance carrier.

Ayer faces a $500,000 fine, two years in jail, and has agreed to setup a $500,000 escrow account for any claims left over from the period when this all occurred.

Green says he first learned about this scheme last year from the FBI.

VanLeeuven, who ended his business relationship with Green in April 2010 over Green's failure to pay him the premiums for the Markel policy, scoffed at Green's explanation that depression caused him to get so deeply in arrears.

"For Green to say that depression caused him not to pay his bills ignores that this was all self-induced," VanLeeuven said. "The fact is that what Ayer did had no financial impact on Green. He can say it hurt him that his company's name was involved with this," he said. "But this (current situation) involves $800,000 of his members money."

"Maybe I should say I'm depressed and stop paying my bills," he said.


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