Volume 3 Number 23
June 5, 2006

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Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced the revocation of the license of a Lake County title insurance agency, 1st Land Title Services, and the license of an agent who misappropriated funds from the agency’s escrow accounts.

Gallagher’s order revoked the title insurance license of Portia Lynne Rodriguez, 57, of Mt. Dora, and permanently banned her from transacting insurance in Florida. Rodriguez had been a licensed title insurance agent in Florida since 1993 and was president of 1st Land Title Services, which had offices in Tavares, Leesburg, Summerfield and Mt. Dora.

“This department is determined to ensure that no one takes advantage of our citizens,” Gallagher said. “Having an agent’s license is an opportunity to serve, not an opportunity to steal.”

The actions against Rodriguez’ license followed a department investigation that uncovered more than $613,000 missing from an escrow account. The investigation began after reports of checks being returned to the agency for insufficient funds. Affected customers were reimbursed by the title insurance companies.

Title insurance is required by mortgage lenders to protect themselves and the homebuyer from property ownership disputes. Last September, in an unrelated matter, Gallagher announced that approximately 10,000 Central Florida residents would share a $2.2 million refund agreed to by Fidelity National Title Insurance Company after a department investigation uncovered illegal referrals to title agencies for business.

Gallagher issued a warning to the industry in 2004 against engaging in illegal kickback arrangements, and initiated investigations into all title agencies for similar practices. Fidelity National Insurance Company was the first to reach a settlement with the department.

To file a complaint, visit the Department of Financial Services web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call the toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762.