Volume 1 Number 49
December 6, 2004










TEXT VERSION

 

 


AGENT SURRENDERS INSURANCE LICENSES
FOLLOWING ALLEGATIONS OF CUSTOMER
ABUSE
 

A Windermere man has lost his licenses to sell insurance following an investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services that alleged he took advantage of his clients for his own financial gain.     

Earlier this year, the department filed a nine-count administrative complaint against Michael Harris Lait, 45, of 11449 Lake Butler Blvd.  The department alleged that Lait misrepresented the terms and conditions of life insurance policies to at least one customer and he convinced at least one individual to “cash in” or surrender existing annuity contracts and to replace them causing the customer to pay unnecessary surrender penalties; the practice is known as “churning” or “twisting.”

The department also alleged Lait misled at least one consumer in the sale of an annuity contract, causing the customer to lose $55,000 in policy value as Lait earned a commission that he would not have earned otherwise.

Lait also allegedly took out policy loans against a client’s life insurance policy totaling more than $58,000 without the consumer’s knowledge or consent. The department further alleged that Lait set up the West Orange Children’s Foundation in order to launder insurance premium payments to make them appear tax deductible for clients, and to misappropriate insurance clients’ funds. 

After first requesting a formal hearing to dispute the department’s charges, Lait this month surrendered all of his insurance licenses.  In addition to the revocation of his insurance licenses, the department permanently removed and barred Lait from ever again participating in the business of insurance. He had been licensed as a life, life & health and a health agent since November 1981. 

In addition to the administrative charges, the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud arrested Lait, d/b/a Harris Financial Services, on August 23, and charged him with elder exploitation, scheme to defraud, and fraudulent reporting and accounting of funds for a total of more than $200,000 in consumer funds. Lait faces up to 30 years in prison for each of these felony charges. 

The Department of Financial Services investigates allegations of improper conduct by licensed agents and those posing as agents. Questions about agents or insurance policies may be directed to the department’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-342-2762.  

The skyline for December is downtown Gainesville, featuring the Hippodrome Theater, originally the post office.