Pompano Beach Insurance Agent Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Policies to Elderly Military Families
Contact: Ashley Carr
MIAMI, Fla. – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrest of Patrice Sands of Pompano Beach for selling fraudulent insurance policies to elderly military veterans and their families at Make-A-Wish Veterans, Inc., a Miami-based company that provides assistance to veterans. An agency investigation discovered that Sands collected premiums from her victims and deposited the funds into bank accounts tied to her business, Universal Research Group Insurance Agency, but failed to secure policies through a company licensed to transact insurance in the state of Florida.
“All incidents of insurance fraud are harmful because they result in higher premiums for policyholders, but I am particularly troubled when seniors who have served our country valiantly are sought out by fraudsters,” said CFO Atwater. “Thousands of veterans have chosen to call Florida home, and it’s important to bring this issue to light so veterans can protect themselves from those who wish to target them.”
One 84-year-old victim realized the $100,000 policy she purchased might be a scam when her husband passed away and no benefits were received. The victim told investigators that Sands told her that the insurance company had “gone under.” Sands also asked for the victims’ life insurance certificate back, which she destroyed. Sands wrote the victim a refund check for the premiums she had paid, but the check was returned for insufficient funds.
Floridians trust that they are conducting business with a qualified and ethical individual when purchasing an insurance product or service from a person licensed by the Department of Financial Services. When those individuals betray the public’s trust, the Divisions of Insurance Fraud and Agent & Agency Services take the appropriate criminal and administrative action.
Since July 2014, the Division of Insurance Fraud has made 59 arrests of individuals who were licensed by the Department or who were required to be licensed but were operating without one. These arrests represent $4.47 million in fraud and involved insurance agents, bail bond agents and public adjusters.
Sands faces up to 25 years in prison. The Division of Agent & Agency Services will seek to suspend her insurance agent license. Sands’ case will be prosecuted by the office of Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Consumers are encouraged to ‘verify before they buy’ insurance products in the state of Florida. The Department’s Insurance Consumer Helpline assists consumers with all insurance-related matters and can be reached by calling 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).