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Originally published Friday, February 7, 2014 at 9:44 PM

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Man gets 3 months for scamming golf organizers

A man who scammed golf-tournament organizers by selling hole-in-one insurance and then failing to pay out was sentenced to three months in jail.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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A man who scammed golf-tournament organizers by selling hole-in-one insurance and then failing to make good on prizes was sentenced Friday in King County Superior Court to three months in jail.

Kevin Kolenda, 56, pleaded guilty in October to two counts of selling insurance without a license and one count of first-degree theft.

He was given credit for time already served in jail and was not taken back into custody on Friday. He also made the final payment on $15,000 restitution.

Kolenda was originally charged with five felony counts of selling insurance without a Washington license in 2012. After he failed to show up for a court hearing that year, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest and he was taken into custody in December in his hometown of Norwalk, Conn.

He was extradited to Washington in 2013.

“It’s rare that we have to go to these extremes to rein in a scammer,” Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement released when Kolenda was extradited. “But Mr. Kolenda’s been thumbing his nose at regulators for years. Arresting him seems to be the only way to get his attention.”

According to court documents, Kolenda started a company called Golf Marketing in 1995 that he ran out of the Norwalk home he shares with his parents. The business, which changed names several times throughout the years, sold insurance to golf organizations that offered prizes at tournaments, according to insurance-commissioner investigators.

Investigators said tournaments would typically pick a certain specific hole on the course and offer a prize if someone got a hole-in-one there.

Kolenda’s company offered insurance on the prize, charging a premium that ranged from between several hundred dollars to more than a $1,000, depending on the amount of the prize, according to charging documents.

The prizes were seldom won, according to the Insurance Commissioner’s Office, but when they were, Kolenda wouldn’t pay.

In some cases, the charities or organizations that hosted the tournaments had to come up with the prize money. In others, the prizewinners agreed to forgo a prize.

Kolenda first came to the attention of the Insurance Commissioner’s Office in 2003 when he was illegally sold prize-money insurance for a tournament at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton. A golfer made a hole-in-one at that tournament, but Kolenda refused to make good on the $10,000 prize, charging documents say.

In 2004, he refused to make good on a $50,000 prize won during a tournament at the Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Wash., court documents said.

That same year, the Insurance Commissioner’s Office issued Kolenda a cease-and-desist order and fined him $125,000, court documents say.

Yet Kolenda continued to run his business, according to court documents.

In 2010, he sold coverage for a $25,000 hole-in-one prize at a golf tournament in Snohomish and, once again, declined to pay despite numerous notarized forms attesting to a hole-in-one, according to the documents.

Jeff Cornish of the Grass Roots Golf Foundation, which raises money to teach golf to underprivileged children and which sponsored the Snohomish tournament, said during Friday’s sentencing hearing that Kolenda’s action hurt his charity’s reputation and, by extension, the children who benefit from the work it does.

Kolenda has also been accused of running his scam in numerous other states.

He still has a website that explains his entrepreneurial style, defends his business practices and features a biographical section called “The man, the myth and the legend.”

Nevertheless, Mark Couey, the director of the Insurance Commissioner’s Special Investigations Unit, said he thinks Kolenda will not be plying his trade again in Washington.

“I think he got the message,” said Couey after the hearing. “I don’t think he liked being in jail.”

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com



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