Former 49er indicted in embezzlement case
Ray Wersching was a placekicker for S.F. from 1977 to '87
Former San Francisco 49ers placekicker Ray Wersching was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges of embezzling more than $8 million in insurance premiums, prosecutors said.
Wersching, 55, owner of the Ray Wersching Insurance Agency in Redwood City, was accused of misappropriating premiums that should have been paid to the Farmers Insurance Group from 1997 to 2000. The six-count indictment also charges him with evading taxes on $3.6 million of corporate income in 1999 and 2000.
The company's former co-owner, Mary Ann Locke, was indicted in August on similar embezzlement charges, which are still pending. One charge against Wersching is that he allowed Locke, who had a 1992 forgery conviction, to handle insurance, in violation of a law that prohibits willfully permitting a convicted felon to participate in the insurance business.
The indictment alleged that Wersching diverted to his own company some premiums that were owed to Farmers, but did not specify what he did with the money. The amounts withheld from Farmers ranged from $456,000 in 1997 to $3.4 million in 2000, the indictment said.
Attempts to reach Wersching for comment were unsuccessful. But a lawyer for Wersching said his client was an innocent victim of Locke, his former employee.
"The money that was stolen went to Mary Ann Locke. Ray got none of it,'' said attorney Chuck Smith. "She spent $8 million on a lavish lifestyle and gambling in Nevada. Ray has been and is living in a townhouse on the Peninsula with his family."
Smith said the missing funds have also been the subject of five years of civil suits, in which Wersching's financial records and "every aspect of his life'' have been investigated and no evidence of theft uncovered.
Wersching is due in court Monday.
The UC Berkeley graduate had a 15-year National Football League career, playing for the San Diego Chargers from 1973 to 1976 and for the 49ers for the next 11 years. When he was released after the 1987 season, he held team records for total points, field goals and points after touchdown. He still holds a Super Bowl record with five career field goals.
While playing football, he worked as a certified public accountant in the off-season.
The investigation of Wersching's insurance company was started by the state Department of Insurance in 2001 and later joined by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, authorities said. It was also in 2001 that Farmers severed its relationship with Wersching, who had been a Farmers agent since 1995, according to the indictment.
State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi said the indictment "makes it clear that in California, no one -- whether an average citizen or a former football star -- will escape prosecution if they are suspected of insurance fraud.''
E-mail Bob Egelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Man is he screwed.