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Volume 4, No. 12 - December 2015

News You Can Use

- Updating you on what's going on

Jacksonville Title Agent Defrauds Clients of Nearly $400,000 While Operating Unlicensed Real Estate Title Agency

Florida’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) announced the arrest of Kristine Ann Spahr, 41, after her alleged intentional misappropriation of nearly $400,000 in real estate escrow funds as an effort to gain personal monetary profit while she was illegally operating her Nassau and Duval county-based insurance company, Signature Title and Trust LLC.

In January of 2015, DIF received a complaint that alleged Spahr’s title agency, Signature Title and Trust, had closed a real estate transaction that listed Chicago Title Insurance Company as the policy evaluator. After looking further into the complaint, DIF established that neither Spahr nor her company had been appointed to represent or sell policies on behalf of Chicago Title.

At that time DIF, in conjunction with DFS’ Division of Agents and Agency Services' Bureau of Investigation, moved forward with their investigation revealing that in 2014 Spahr had forfeited her title agency license as a condition to work as an agent for another title insurance company, Grace Title. While working for Grace Title, Spahr continued to illegally operate her previous company, Signature Title and Trust LLC, without the required licensing.

DIF’s investigation later revealed that on at least seven separate occasions, while illegally operating her previous company, Spahr defrauded her clients by keeping their real estate escrow funds and failing to provide her clients with the title insurance they had paid for. Of the seven fraudulent transactions, two victim’s homes had prior mortgages that were not paid off from the escrow accounts and were facing foreclosure. Unpaid federal and county tax liens were not paid off in several of the other victim’s real estate closings. In total, funds in excess of $391,000 were found to have allegedly been stolen by Spahr.

Kristine Spahr was booked into the Nassau County Jail and has been charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, a felony of the first degree. This case will be prosecuted by the Assistant State Attorney Stephen Siegel of the State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, and if convicted, Spahr faces up to 15 years in prison.

Click here to read the press release>>

Florida Announces Two Multi-Agency, Multi-State Life Claim Settlement Agreements Totaling More than $5.5 Million

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office), Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS), and the Florida Office of the Attorney General (AG) announced national life claim settlement agreements have been signed with Jackson National for $2.5 million and AXA for $3.28 million.

These settlement agreements focus on the one-sided use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF) to stop paying a deceased person’s annuity, but not using the same information to find and begin paying the deceased’s family or other beneficiaries for life insurance policies.

In its fifth year, this multi-state national effort has resulted in the successful return of more than $5 billion in unknown or lost policy proceeds to beneficiaries directly by the companies and over $2.4 billion delivered to the states’ unclaimed property programs, which continue efforts to locate and pay beneficiaries

To date, state insurance regulators have either reached settlements or concluded the investigation of 22 of the top 40 companies constituting 73% of the total market. Efforts continue to be focused on the examination of the remaining 18 insurers.

Click here to read the press release>>

South Florida Mail Man Arrested in Alleged Investment Scam

The Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) announced the arrest of Lawyer Stanley Jr. by the Hallandale Beach Police Department for his role in an alleged gold and diamond investment scam. Stanley is charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, one count of first-degree grand theft and one count of third-degree grand theft. He was booked into Broward County Jail where he is currently being held on a $50,000 bond.

“It is important to always be on guard when investing your money, even if someone seems trustworthy,” said OFR Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear. “The OFR urges all consumers to verify the license of the company or individual before doing financial business with them.”

“Thank you to our partners in the Hallandale Beach Police Department and the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office for their diligent work in this case,” said OFR Acting Chief of Financial Investigations Alex Toledo. “I am proud of our investigative team who work tirelessly to bring financial criminals to justice.”

Click here to read the press release>>

Information Sought on String of Jacksonville Arsons

The Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office is looking for information about a string of arsons that occurred early the morning of December 8th, 2015, in Jacksonville, Florida. Around 3:00 a.m., a porch surveillance camera captured images of the suspect, which are attached along with the original video.

The first incident was a palm tree that was set on fire at the corner of Valencia Road and Van Wert Avenue shortly before 3:00 a.m. The suspect proceeded to check the door handles of multiple vehicles along Valencia Road before vandalizing a pick-up truck. After moving to Dancy Street, the suspect broke into a truck, stole papers from inside the cab, and placed them in the gas tank before attempting to ignite them. The suspect then made his way to Boone Park Avenue, where he detached a wooden plank from a fence and proceeded back to Dancy Street where he set a vehicle on fire which resulted in a total loss. His final fire occurred at an occupied residence on Oak Street. The fire was started on the porch at the front door, and then spread to the attic.

Click here to read the press release>>

Commissioner McCarty Receives LAAIA’s “Insurance Man of the Year” Award

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin M. McCarty was honored with the Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA) “Insurance Man of the Year” Award on Friday, December 4, 2015. This award was presented to Commissioner McCarty in recognition of his many years of service and contributions to the insurance industry, including for technological innovations to enhance the regulatory process, efforts on Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform, the recovery of more than $110 million over the last two years for Florida policyholders as a result of life insurance claim settlements, and the depopulation of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

Click here to read the press release>>

Office Approves Removal of Up to 75,115 Policies from Citizens for February 2016 Take-Out

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has approved the removal of up to 72,534 personal residential policies and 2,581 commercial residential polices from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens). The following three companies have been approved to participate:

· Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Company – approved to remove up to 1,081 commercial residential policies (Commercial Lines Account)

· Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company – approved to remove up to 55,000 personal residential policies (35,000 Personal Lines Account and 20,000 Coastal Account) and up to 1,500 commercial residential policies (1,300 Commercial Lines Account and 200 Coastal Account)

· National Specialty Insurance Company – approved to remove up to 17,534 personal residential policies (Coastal Account)

Citizen’s Personal Lines and Commercial Lines Accounts are primarily non-coastal properties and the Coastal Account is coastal properties. The take-out periods are February 23, 2016 for personal residential impacting both the Personal Lines/Coastal Account policies and February 16, 2016 for commercial residential impacting both the Commercial Lines/Coastal Account policies. This is part of the state’s ongoing depopulation effort to reduce the number of policies in the state-created Citizens and transfer them to the private insurance market.

Click here to read the press release>>




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