Charlotte County Restaurant Fire Uncovers Sale of Fake Insurance Policy Leaving Restaurant Owner to Cover $120,000 in Fire Damages
Contact: Ashley Carr
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - The Florida Department of Financial Services today announced the arrest of Punta Gorda resident William Reese for acting as an unlicensed insurance agent and selling a fake insurance policy to local restaurant owner, Luis Rivera, owner of Two Brothers Home Style Cooking located in Punta Gorda.
Luis Rivera purchased what he believed was a valid insurance policy from William Reese, who claimed to be a licensed agent out of New York. Reese, however, pocketed the money and because he was not licensed to sell insurance, no valid insurance policy was ever secured.
A fire broke out inside the restaurant in April 2015 and assistance from the State Fire Marshal’s office, which also operates under the direction of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, was requested to investigate the cause of the fire. During the course of that investigation, Luis Rivera provided investigators a copy of his proof of insurance, also known as a certificate of insurance, only to find out that the certificate was fictitious. This meant that his business, which suffered $120,000 in fire damages, was uninsured at the time of the fire.
The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical in nature, and the State Fire Marshal’s office turned the case over to the Division of Insurance Fraud after it was confirmed that the alleged insurance policy was invalid.
Reese was arrested at his residence in Punta Gorda and transported to the Charlotte County Jail where he faces several felony charges including grand theft and forgery. This is the second time the Division of Insurance Fraud has arrested Reese on similar charges. Reese was previously arrested in Miami in 1998.
Investigators believe that other consumers may have fallen victim to William Reese’s fraudulent activity. Consumers are strongly encouraged to contact the Division of Insurance Fraud if they have ever conducted financial transactions with William Reese. They can do so by calling the Fraud Tip Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.
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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).