'Horrible accounting' blamed for elderly couple's legal woes

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 1/17/2014

A Maryland couple with more than 50 years in the truck insurance brokerage business pleaded guilty this week to one count each of embezzlement, according to the Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney’s office.

Ada Hardester Bicknell, 83, and her husband, 82-year-old William Clayton Bicknell, operated BIA Insurance Co. in Parsonsburg for decades, according to Rob Penny, chief of staff for State’s Attorney Lance Richardson. Each received a suspended one-year jail sentence and were ordered to pay $47,400 in restitution to the victim, a trucking company owner from Sudlersville, Md.

The couple were indicted by a grand jury in October of 2013 on charges of theft and embezzlement, following a two-year investigation conducted by the Queen Anne’s County sheriff, the state’s attorney office, and the state insurance commission. They entered their pleas on Jan. 14.

Penny said the case against the Bicknells boils down to “horrible accounting.”

“In Maryland if you have a fiduciary responsibility to protect somebody’s assets and you don’t do that, that’s clearly embezzlement, that’s clearly theft, and that’s what they were charged with,” he said.

Penny said his agency was contacted by Craig Wilson, owner of Wilson Trucking, who alleged the Bicknells spent the $47,400 he’d paid them for insurance premiums to pay off the premiums of other trucking companies. Wilson’s insurance ended up getting canceled because there was no money left to cover his premiums.

“We came to the conclusion that the Bicknells did not follow protocol as established by the insurance regulators in Maryland,” Penny said in a phone interview with Land Line on Friday. “We didn’t find any evidence that they were extracting the money to use for their personal use. It seems as though they were robbing Peter to pay Paul in an attempt to keep their business afloat in a tough economy.”

Penny said the couple also failed to keep the various premiums and funds they received from trucking companies segregated, opting instead to keep all the funds in “one big account.”

“Their position was they were trying to keep businesses afloat in hope that the economy would turn around,” he said. “Henceforth, those people would get more volume of work and be able to pay their premiums to the Bicknells. Some of (the trucking companies) they’d brokered for years. It’s a horrible scenario.”

The couple’s age and lack of criminal record contributed to the state’s decision to pursue a suspended jail sentence, Penny said.

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