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Court reverses conviction of insurance man

Charles Amos battles stomach cancer and multiple sclerosis, but the former insurance executive said the real pain came from a label statewide prosecutors stuck on him three years ago.

After his wife was murdered, after he was shot and after his own son was convicted for both crimes, prosecutors decided he was more than a victim.

They said he was a thief.

But the 2nd District Court of Appeal in an April 27 ruling reversed Amos' conviction on 11 grand theft charges, saying Amos never personally profited from an alleged scheme to defraud insurance companies.

Profit aside, the court said Amos' deeds did not amount to grand theft as defined by Florida law.

"I hated it more than anything that they called me a thief," said Amos, 57, who had been free on bail pending the appeal. "I only had two speeding tickets when they arrested me. I've always been honest. (Prosecutors) didn't understand insurance."

Statewide prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling but declined additional comment.

If the appeal court's decision reversed the convictions, it nonetheless fell short of completely exonerating Amos, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"Amos' practices were dishonest," the court said. "He clearly violated (the law) by making false statements on insurance applications."

But that, the court said, is simply a misdemeanor, not felony grand theft.

The case against Amos began after his first wife's murder eight years ago.

Amos' son, Jonathan Amos, is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years for hiring a friend to murder his mother, Joan, and attempting to kill his father.

After his conviction, the younger Amos told investigators that he wasn't the only family member who had run afoul of the law.

Amos told authorities to look into Aanco Underwriters Inc., where his father was chairman of the board.

Statewide prosecutors said they found that Charles Amos and former Aanco president John Fessenden kept customers' premiums for workers' compensation insurance low by falsifying records to fool insurance carriers and to keep auditors in the dark.

For instance, they would reclassify roofers _ a high-risk job _ as clerical workers, prosecutors said. Or they would grossly underestimate a company's payroll, to cut down on the premium paid to the insurance company, they said.

Or if a company had too many accidents to get a low insurance premium, prosecutors said, Amos would fake records to make it appear the company had been sold, wiping the slate clean.

Fessenden, sentenced to 4{ years in prison, also has an appeal pending.

Today, Amos and his second wife, Janice, insist he did nothing wrong. Amos said he used legitimate means to help customers avoid being overcharged by insurance companies who didn't need the extra profit.

He said he lost money when customers paid lesser premiums, because higher premiums lead to higher commissions.

"Insurance is a very technical expertise that takes years to understand," Amos said. "And the state just didn't get it."