Unlicensed Agent Snared in Undercover Operation
CONTACT: Tara Klimek or Nina Banister
BOYNTON BEACH-A South Florida man is facing charges of selling insurance without a license after he attempted to sell an annuity to an undercover Department of Financial Services’ investigator.
Eric Brown, 37, of Highland Beach, was arrested Tuesday on charges of three counts each of selling insurance without a license and violating a department order following an investigation by the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF). If convicted on all of the charges, Brown faces up to 30 years in prison in addition to fines and restitution. The department’s Division of Legal Services previously revoked Brown’s agent license in January 2006 for allegedly misleading senior citizens in the sale of annuities.
“This man knowingly violated the law and put consumers at risk, and we will not tolerate that,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who oversees the department. “We want consumers to know that we have made it easy for them to check the license of any insurance agent or company, and we strongly recommend that they do so before every transaction.”
To verify a license, consumers can call 1-800-342-2762 or log on to www.fldfs.com
and click on “Verify Before you Buy” to check various insurance and financial licenses, or click directly on “Check out your insurance agent” or “Look up your insurance company.” Consumers can also file a complaint or report suspected fraud on the department’s web page or via the toll-free helpline at 1-800-342-2762.
The arrest stems from a joint investigation between DIF and the Division of Agent and Agency Services’ Bureau of Investigations. The investigation began when Bureau Investigator Sara Dwyer contacted DIF with suspicions that Brown was selling insurance without a license. Working with DIF, Dwyer attended a seminar sponsored by Retirement Solutions, held March 21 at a Boynton Beach restaurant. At the seminar, Brown identified himself as an accountant and office manager for Retirement Solutions, located at 1903 S. Congress Ave. #396, and, following a presentation on various products, offered Dwyer and other participants a free one-hour consultation in his office.
Working with DIF Detective Stacey Spirn, Dwyer made a controlled call to Brown and set up a meeting for April 3, and Dwyer attended wearing a recording device. Another meeting was scheduled for April 12 and, again wearing a recording device, Dwyer met with Brown and he allegedly recommended that Dwyer move an existing annuity into SunAmerica/AIG. When Dwyer agreed, Steve Effron, a licensed agent, joined them with an application. Brown told Effron what had been discussed and, with no additional recommendations, Effron began completing the contract. At that point, Dwyer walked away and Det. Spirn walked in and advised Brown that he could not continue the transaction with a revoked license.
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.