Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Attorney General Charlie Crist announced the arrests of five south Florida residents on charges that they systematically defrauded hundreds of senior citizens in an organized scheme that netted more than $2 million in fraudulent insurance sales commissions.
Brian Lee Shechtman, 37, of Hollywood; Dean Allen Shechtman, 36, of Aventura; Brad Howard Shechtman, 33, of Miramar; Camille Martinez Shechtman, 30, of Miramar; and Rosemary O’Rourke Welstead, 61, of Ft. Lauderdale, are charged with racketeering and multiple counts of insurance fraud, money laundering and grand theft. Brad and Camille Shechtman were booked into the Marion County Jail. The three others were booked into the Broward County Jail.
Insurance fraud investigators with the Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees, said licensed insurance agents were recruited to gain the trust of victims between the ages 70 and 94. Promising to save them money on their health insurance, the agents instead “slid” them life insurance applications. The sale of whole life insurance policies can net larger commissions.
“These people preyed on senior citizens who needed help in making ends meet,” Gallagher said. “It is unconscionable that these individuals devised such an intricate scheme to take advantage of more than a thousand of our most vulnerable citizens.”
When the elderly victims learned they had purchased a whole life policy, investigators said, they were instructed to call Welstead. Instead of receiving assistance, they were sent to another agent who maintained the scheme.
“For many of the victims,” Gallagher said, “the cycle would repeat itself over and over.”
“There are few crimes more despicable than scamming seniors who are trying to make important choices,” Crist said. “Our prosecutors are pleased to be working with the Chief Financial
Officer’s team to seek justice for these victims.”
Pioneer Life Insurance Company, one of the insurance companies with whom some agents were appointed, has refunded over $1 million to its customers.
Welstead and the Shechtmans, except for Brian Shechtman, have had their insurance agent licenses revoked. Brian Shechtman is prohibited from selling any new policies while his administrative complaint is pending.
Brad Shechtman had his insurance license revoked in 1992 after he reportedly pleaded no contest to charges of felony grand theft and financial exploitation of the elderly. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.
Camille Martinez Shechtman’s license was revoked in 1999 and Dean Allen Shechtman’s license was revoked in 2003 for reported fraudulent sales of life insurance to the elderly. At the time, the two were selling policies for Elder Care Insurance Services, owned by Brian Shechtman. Investigators said they traced more than $1 million dollars in illicit life insurance proceeds to Brian Shechtman’s brokerage accounts.
Welstead’s license was revoked in September 2003 for reported fraudulent sales of life insurance to the elderly.
Investigators said that after losing their agent licenses, the group recruited licensed agents, friends and acquaintances, and even paid for tutors and insurance school tuition for recruits who were not already licensed. Some were reportedly paid a weekly salary in return for signing the fraudulent life insurance applications.
Three agents recruited into the scheme have already lost their licenses.
The licenses of Mark Mittleman and Jay Steven Goldman were revoked in 2002 for reportedly allowing Dean Shechtman to transact insurance using their licenses and for sharing their commissions with him. Gregory O’Connor’s license was revoked in December 2001 for fraudulent sale of life insurance to the elderly.
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