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The Department of Financial Services Announces License Revocation and $140,000 Fine for Fort Myers Insurance Agent’s Misrepresentations to Florida Seniors

2/4/2015

Contact: Ashley Carr
(850) 413 – 2842
 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the revocation of Fort Myers insurance agent Gregory Sample’s license after an investigation revealed that Sample engaged in unethical and illegal business practices that ultimately duped several of his clients, most of whom are seniors, to lose money from their annuity contracts. In addition to having his license revoked, the action will render Sample permanently barred from both direct and indirect participation of any kind in the insurance industry and ordered to pay a $140,000 fine.
 
“Insurance scams are far too common, often targeting seniors. The vast majority of agents are honest, but there are some who manipulate products and sales pitches in their favor, said Greg Thomas, Director of the Division of Agents & Agency Services. “Agents may have a financial incentive when they make a sale. Our division works to hold insurance agents in our state accountable and protect consumers.”
 
The investigation, conducted by the Division of Agent & Agency Services, addressed allegations that Sample made false statements on annuity documents and during the negotiation of annuity sales, and recommended unsuitable annuity exchange transactions to clients of his Fort Myers financial services business. By preying on the trusting nature of seniors, including offering luncheon seminars, Sample’s clients were deceived into believing they were making sound financial decisions, when in actuality, the only person profiting off the transactions was Sample himself. The Division of Administrative Hearings determined that he made willful misrepresentations and is not trustworthy. Sample has appealed the ruling.
 
Sample’s alleged schemes include:
 
• Knowingly misleading an elderly female consumer regarding applicable charges associated to the surrender of an annuity contract, causing the consumer to incur several thousands of dollars in fines and fees, and ultimately causing the consumer to lose more than $70,000 in death benefit funds the consumer had set aside specifically as inheritance funds for her granddaughter. By doing so, Sample profited personally from commissions he obtained.

• In three unrelated instances, Sample convinced two Florida couples and a single elderly woman to sign blank or incomplete forms, which he later filled in with false information. By willfully misrepresenting the couples’ available assets and discretionary income, Sample was able to pass the applicable underwriting standards and receive a commission from the sale of those annuities that were not justly issued.
 
The Department has and will continue to work with the consumers and companies involved to ensure that the consumers are made whole after their tragic ordeals. The Department also takes this opportunity to remind all annuity purchasers to carefully review applications and forms to ensure the forms are fully and accurately completed before signing them. Any consumer who feels they have been misled or deceived by an agent’s action is urged to contact the Department by calling the Consumer Insurance Helpline at 1-877-693–5236.
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, 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. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).