The owner of an online company that refused to pay up after selling insurance to golf tournaments that offered "hole-in-one" prizes to participants has been charged in King County Superior Court with five felony counts of selling insurance without a license.
Turns out that elusive dream of golfers — the hole-in-one — isn’t so elusive after all.
At least not to Kevin Kolenda, say King County prosecutors, who claim he failed to pony up prize money when several Seattle-area golfers connected on a one-shot wonder.
Kolenda, 54, whose company specializes in insuring golf-tournament prize money for holes-in-one, has been charged with five felony counts of selling insurance without a license.
Most Read Local Stories
- These 3 Seattle scientists study the coronavirus. Now they're getting millions to chase their 'wildest scientific ideas'
- Lummi Nation woman disappears during Las Vegas trip with fiancé and friends
- Case dismissed: Defendants charged in alleged attack on a gay man in North Seattle say it never happened
- Coronavirus daily news updates, September 23: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- Washington state analyzed two COVID scenarios for fall. One is much worse than the other
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, whose office conducted the investigation into Kolenda, said the Connecticut man has been on the state’s radar for some time.
“We’ve been warning the public about Mr. Kolenda’s scam for years,” said Kreidler. “He has a long history of selling illegal insurance, refusing to pay prize winners, and thumbing his nose at regulators.”
In charging documents filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, Kolenda is accused of failing to make good on thousands of dollars in prize money offered to golfers at various tournaments throughout the state over the past nine years.
Additionally, court documents allege, he ignored a cease-and-desist order and a $125,000 fine issued by Kreidler’s office in 2004 and continued to sell insurance for golf prizes.
In some cases, the charities or organizations that hosted the tournaments had to come up with the prize money. In others, the prize winners agreed to forgo a prize, said Rich Roesler, a spokesman for the insurance commissioner.
Phone calls to Kolenda’s home and office were not returned Thursday.
According to charging documents, Kolenda started a business called Golf Marketing out of his parents’ Norwalk, Conn., home in 1995.
The business, which has changed names several times throughout the years, offered insurance to golf organizations that offered prizes at tournaments, according to Roesler
Typically, Kolenda’s company would charge an insurance 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 way it works, [a golf organization] will designate a certain specific hole and offer a prize if someone gets a hole-in-one,” Roesler said.
It doesn’t happen very often, he said, “but every once in a while someone gets one, and Kolenda wouldn’t pay.”
In 2003, Kolenda illegally sold insurance for a tournament at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, but refused to immediately pay when a golfer got a hole-in-one and tried to claim the $10,000 prize, charging documents say.
The following year, 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 allege.
Two years ago, Kolenda sold coverage for a $25,000 hole-in-one prize at a golf tournament on June 14 in Snohomish and, once again, declined to pay despite numerous notarized forms attesting to the hole-in-one, according to the documents.
According to court documents and the insurance commissioner’s office, Kolenda is accused of running his scam in other states, including Montana, Ohio, Georgia, California, New York, Hawaii, Alabama, Massachusetts, Florida, Connecticut and North Carolina.
He was charged with similar crimes in Montana last month and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 5 in King Count Superior Court.
“He’s a piece of work,” said Roesler.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.