The Florida Department of Financial Services filed administrative complaints this week against 15 Florida agents accusing them of selling insurance policies for unlicensed entities. The department announced it is continuing to conduct conducting unannounced compliance examinations at agent offices in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
As the Department of Financial Services continues to take action against agents and marketers selling unlicensed insurance in Florida, consumers and agents visiting the department’s Web site at www.fldfs.com now can look at a new page, “Verify Before You Buy,” for tips and information they can use to protect themselves from this kind of fraud.
“By checking to make sure they are dealing with a licensed company, consumers can protect themselves from the financial devastation others have suffered,” said Florida’s CFO Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Our goal is to take the swiftest action possible against these scam operators. We will not tolerate the selling of false security to Floridians.”
Tens of thousands of Floridians have been left with unpaid claims as a result of buying insurance from 10 unlicensed entities shut down in the past two years. The department has been conducting a statewide public education campaign for more than a year that warns consumers to “Verify Before You Buy.” The phony coverage sold so far has been for health and medical malpractice, although the department warns these operators could be moving into other areas.
The administrative complaints issued this week charge agents throughout Florida who sold policies for various unlicensed entities already shut down by the department, including Physicians Exchange, Employers Mutual, Vanguard and TRG Marketing Group, whose principals were arrested earlier this month on felony charges of transacting insurance without a license in Florida. More than 50 agents around Florida are now facing disciplinary action against their licenses for selling bogus policies.
The most recent administrative complaints were filed against: Jerry Henry Agtmaal, Boynton Beach; Stephen Blackford, Jacksonville; Earl Grant Darbyson, Lake Park; Lillian Beth Gore, Boca Raton; Lenny Gerard Greenstein, Sunrise; Edward Michael Farley, Palm City; Alan R. Firpo, Royal Palm Beach; Bruce Warren Fletcher, Coral Springs; Michael Warnock Houston, Boca Raton; Steven Jeffrey Marx, Cooper City; Ernest William Norman, Stuart; Carole Anne Pelletier, Bradenton; Earnest Dan Skipper, Lakeland; James Ulchinsky, Punta Gorda; and Daryl Brian Williams, Orlando.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, is expected to be approved soon in the Senate and, if passed by the House, would increase criminal penalties for individuals who operate an unlicensed insurance entity.
The 2002 Legislature passed a law increasing the penalty for a licensed agent selling unlicensed insurance from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Under Florida law, if an unlicensed insurer fails to pay claims, agents who sold the unlicensed coverage may be held responsible for unpaid claims.
Consumers and agents will be able to use the new page on the department’s Web site to make sure a company is licensed in Florida, file a complaint or find tips on how to avoid possible unlicensed activity. In addition, information is available on entities that have been shut down for selling unlicensed insurance in Florida and the names of agents who have had administrative charges filed against them for selling bogus insurance policies. Agents can also find courses and information on unlicensed insurance.
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