- Updating you on what's going on
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) announced the arrest of insurance agent Julia Shurdom, 67, for transacting insurance related business with a suspended insurance license, scheming to defraud, and uttering a forged document while working for Absolute Insurance Services in Orlando, Florida.
DIF received a complaint in regards to Ms. Shurdom, after a client who purchased homeowners’ insurance in 2013 and 2014 discovered that her home had remained uninsured. DIF conducted an investigation surrounding the complaint and found, per her bank records, that Ms. Shurdom had collected two homeowners’ insurance premium payments and used the money for personal profit.
During the investigation, DIF conducted a license search for the accused agent and realized that the Department’s Division of Agent & Agency Services (A&A) had already begun investigating Ms. Shurdom for a series of unrelated events. A&A’s investigation had subsequently resulted in a suspension of Ms. Shurdom’s license to conduct insurance related business. A follow up audit by A&A, as well as the ongoing investigation by DIF, revealed that Ms. Shurdom continued to negotiate insurance policies without the proper licensing from the Department of Financial Services, and that the transactions conducted were fraudulent.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of Mandy Rodriguez, 35, on felony fraud and grand theft charges after an investigation revealed that Rodriguez, a licensed insurance agent, stole more than $80,000 in premium funds from four of his clients. In an effort to conceal that he was pocketing the money intended to pay the premiums on policies his clients thought were valid, Rodriguez created fake proof of insurance documents and gave them to his clients.
Rodriguez’ clients believed they were paying for legitimate commercial or homeowners’ insurance policies from Citizens Property Insurance Company, but Citizens verified that none of the policies ever existed. Rodriguez instructed his clients to write their premium checks to his company, Risk Management Agency Group, rather than to Citizens directly. Bank records show that the victims’ checks were deposited into his company’s account for personal use.
Detectives obtained a statement from Rodriguez acknowledging the creation of the fraudulent insurance documents as well as the deposit of the insurance premium money into his personal company’s bank account. Once able to verify that the consumers had been duped, Citizens and Rodriguez’s employer, Bentrust Insurance Group, worked together to secure proper insurance coverage that was paid up-to-date.
Mandy Rodriguez was booked into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and is being charged with 1 count of Unlawfully Diverting Insurance Funds, 1 count of Scheme to Defraud, 5 counts of Insurance Fraud, 29 counts of Grand Theft, 5 counts of Forgery, and 5 counts of Uttering a Forged Instrument. The case is being prosecuted by the office of Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. The Department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services, which licenses and investigates insurance agents in Florida, also participated in the investigation and aims to take administrative action against Rodriguez’s insurance license.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of Cledith E. Oakley III, owner of Asset, Insurance & Mortgage Services, Inc. or AIMS in Boynton Beach, on charges of grand theft and insurance fraud after it was discovered that he stole the identity and information of his business partner in an effort to conceal commission profits made from the sale of fraudulent life insurance policies. Oakley utilized his experience in the insurance industry to write fraudulent life insurance policies for himself and his two minor sons, and falsely inflated his income to qualify for high death benefit policies in order to obtain higher commissions.
An investigation conducted in conjunction with the Department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services' Bureau of Investigation revealed that Oakley, a licensed insurance agent, executed an elaborate scheme in which he created a shell company, AIMS, and directed an employee to file false applications for life insurance policies in excess of $3 million. As the head of AIMS, Oakley received monetary commissions from the sale of the policies but purposefully neglected to pay the subsequent premium payments. When confronted by investigators, Oakley admitted to intentionally defrauding insurance companies for the sole purpose of receiving commission payouts.
Oakley’s scheme unraveled when the business partner whose identity was stolen became suspicious and contacted the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud. Bank records subpoenaed as part of the investigation proved that Oakley was the sole signer on bank accounts that contained the fraudulently obtained commission payouts. Bank records further proved that Oakley withdrew funds from these accounts for personal use. In total, Oakley acquired nearly $30,000 in commissions from the sale of five bogus policies that totaled $3 million in coverage.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of Orlando insurance agent Joseph Oddo, 46, for defrauding Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of more than $150,000 in commission payments he was not entitled to.
The investigation revealed that Oddo fraudulently used his mother’s name and insurance license to sell 19 Ameritas Life Corp. insurance policies because he was not appointed to sell for the company. With each policy sale, Oddo collected an advanced commission and represented to his clients that a special program permitted him to provide a ‘free’ life insurance policy. Bank records and interviews with Joseph Oddo’s clients showed that for a short time, Oddo deposited premium funds into his clients’ bank accounts - funds that Ameritas would later debit from the account for premium payments.
However, Oddo stopped paying the premiums causing the policies to lapse. By failing to keep the policies current, Oddo had not earned the commission payments that were advanced to him and was stealing from the insurance company.
After learning of a warrant for his arrest, Joseph Oddo turned himself into the Orange County Jail. His bond was set at $20,000, and he is charged with one count of Scheme to Defraud over $50,000 and one count of Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information. His case will be prosecuted by the office of State Attorney Jeffrey L Ashton, and he faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted. The Department’s Division of Agents & Agency Services has suspended his license to transact insurance in Florida.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrests of Luis Alfredo Hernandez, 51, and Etiame Caridad Ramjohn, 35, for transacting insurance without a license. Ramjohn, a convicted felon, and Hernandez were employed with Trinity Insurance Agency in Miami.
Hernandez and Ramjohn were found to have been transacting insurance-related business at Trinity Insurance Agency during a site inspection conducted by the Department’s Division of Agent & Agency Services' Bureau of Investigation. The inspection stemmed from Hernandez’s application for an insurance agent license that was not completed, which led investigators to believe he was transacting without a license.
Anytime an application for licensure gets denied or closed without approval, the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Agent & Agency Services’ Bureau of Investigation tracks the applicant’s business transactions to make sure they do not attempt to conduct business without the proper licensing.
Investigators not only found Hernandez and Ramjohn to be conducting unlicensed insurance business, but Ramjohn had also previously been denied a customer representative license and was permanently barred from the insurance industry. The investigation revealed that Hernandez and Ramjohn were obtaining insurance policies and signing the name of another agent who was absent during the time of the transactions.
In addition to what was found during the site inspection, Hernandez and Ramjohn were also found to have sold and quoted multiple insurance policies for Trinity Insurance Agency. It was determined that Hernandez was involved in the transaction and sale of at least 155 insurance policies, and Ramjohn was involved in at least 31 policies, submitted to United Automobile Insurance Company. During the investigation, additional customers were located and they identified Hernandez and Ramjohn as the persons that sold them their motor vehicle insurance.
The state of Florida requires that any person performing the duties of an insurance agent or customer representative must hold the proper licenses issued by the Department of Financial Services.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrests of Miami residents Mariela Quintana, 46, Noel Vazquez Lazo, 44, and Rodney Fabian, 27, for their involvement in separate fraudulent personal injury protection or PIP insurance schemes. These three individuals are held accountable for nearly $100,000 in financial losses after their plans to execute multiple PIP schemes were disrupted by a Division of Insurance Fraud investigation.
Mariela Quintana was a licensed massage therapist at D & J Rehabilitation Center in Miami and was charged for fraudulently billing nearly $10,000 in claims after she allegedly signed off on treatment forms for procedures she never performed. This is the second time in less than six months that she has been arrested for similar activity at the same clinic. This time she’s been charged with Insurance Fraud, Grand Theft, and Organized Scheme to Defraud.
Noel Vazquez Lazo directed a staged accident that resulted in fraudulent claims in excess of $89,000. Lazo paid for the policy of the at-fault vehicle used in the accident and paid the participants in these schemes to seek treatment for fake injuries. As a result of his actions Lazo faces charges which include Organizing a Staged Accident, Insurance Fraud, and Grand Theft.
Rodney Fabian has been charged with Solicitation, Patient Brokering, Insurance Fraud, and Grand Theft for his role in soliciting the victim of a hit and run accident and offering to pay them for visiting a specific clinic for treatment. Fabian paid the victim $1,000 as part of their agreement, but, because the insurance company suspected fraud, the claims were not processed and Fabian tried to demand the money back.
The Florida Department of Financial Services 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 bogus. This meant that his business, which suffered $120,000 in fire damages, was uninsured at the time of the fire.
We highly recommend that licensees routinely check their MyProfile account(s) for messages from the Department. We send an email notification at the same time to remind you to check your MyProfile account but on rare occasions you may not receive that email. For that reason, we suggest you add our domains dfs.state.fl.us and MyFloridaCFO.com to your email software's Trusted or Safe Senders List to ensure you are able to receive email notifications from us. Licensees who have a valid email address on file with the Department, as required by law, are sent important email notifications when something that affects their application, license, continuing education, or appointment(s) occurs. Additionally, we will keep you informed with warnings regarding new schemes and scams being marketed to licensees. You can update your contact information through your MyProfile account. We want to keep you informed in a timely manner of pertinent information. You are still required to abide by the Florida Insurance Code regardless of whether you read the information we provide or attempt to provide.