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Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Arrest of Jacksonville Man for Grand Theft

10/7/2011

Contact: Alexis Lambert
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE – Florida CFO Jeff Atwater announced today the arrest of a Jacksonville business man for selling a surety bond without a license and pocketing the premiums.  Larry James Wright, 58, director of The Underwriters Group, Inc., allegedly sold a “bid bond” to a Massachusetts construction company without a valid license and kept the premiums.

“Scams like this cost businesses thousands and put them at risk for even greater losses,” said CFO Atwater. “It is important for all consumers to protect themselves and verify both the agent and company are licensed before conducting business with them. My office will continue to crack down on unlicensed insurance transactions and protect your hard-earned dollars.”

A joint investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud and the Division of Agent & Agency Services  revealed that Wright received payments of nearly $180,000 from the construction company but never provided the surety bond.  The department issued a Cease and Desist Order to Wright in August for selling insurance without a license.

In the construction industry, a “bid bond” provides assurance to the owners of a construction job that the project is within the construction company’s means to complete. If the construction company runs into cash flow problems during the job, the bond pays to finish the remainder of the project.

Wright was booked into Duval County jail on Wednesday and is currently awaiting bond. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. 

Consumers are asked to visit the Department’s Web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com  or call the Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) to verify both the insurance company and agent they are considering doing business with are licensed.
Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.  The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. 
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending