CFO SINK BANS INSURANCE AGENT FOR EXPLOITING
ELDERLY JEWISH FLORIDA CONSUMERS
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex
Sink has revoked the license of a south Florida agent and permanently banned
him from the insurance business in Florida for using his insurance license
to exploit elderly Jewish Floridians.
Leighton David Applefeld,
66, owned and operated Focus Financial Services, Inc. in Delray Beach. In
February, the Department of Financial Services filed an 18-count
administrative complaint against Applefeld alleging, among other things,
that he preyed on elderly Jewish consumers, through religious affinity, to
engender their trust and sell them inappropriate insurance products that
paid high commissions. In lieu of fighting the administrative charges
against him, Applefeld agreed to the revocation of his insurance license,
and further agreed to be permanently banned from the insurance business in
“It is morally
reprehensible to use religion to prey upon Floridians who are merely looking
for a safe place to keep their finances,” said CFO Sink who heads the
department. “I will use every measure under the law to protect our citizens
from financial harm.”
seminars at local restaurants, Jewish centers, and various other locations
throughout Broward and Palm Beach and misrepresented the annuity products he
sold. In many cases, Applefeld was able to convince clients to surrender or
withdraw from their in-force annuities or investments to fund new deferred
annuity contracts, resulting in thousands of dollars of unnecessary
surrender charges and additional penalties that he didn’t explain to his
elderly clients. In most cases, Applefeld’s clients didn’t realize the
financial harm they suffered until it was too late.
In one instance, Applefeld
convinced an elderly Jewish couple to give him checks totaling $180,000 to
invest. Applefeld instructed the couple to make the checks payable to his
Delray Beach business name rather than an insurance company, but he never
invested the funds on behalf of his clients once the money was deposited
into his business account.
CFO Sink urges Florida
seniors to take the following precautions to avoid becoming victims of
• Assess your financial
means and investment objectives prior to purchasing any investment.
• Ask the sales agent about the licenses and/or designations he or she
holds, and what types of investment choices he or she can offer you.
• Ask about commissions, fees, penalties, surrender charges and any
other associated costs. Get the figures in writing.
• Always request a comparative analysis in writing between your in-force
investment and any new investment.
• Before you surrender any in-force investment to purchase a new
product, call the company to find out if you will suffer a surrender
charge, and if so, how much it will be. You may discover that the cost
of a transfer outweighs any benefit of a new product.
• Beware of "bonus" interest rates, as they are usually limited in
duration and have strings attached.
• Be cautious of sales pitches that claim you will "recoup" all
penalties with the higher returns of a new policy.
• Ask questions and take notes. Walk away if an agent doesn’t answer
your questions.• Don’t let your guard down simply because an agent is a
member of the same religious, ethnic, cultural, or professional group.
It’s only human nature to trust people who are like you, and religious
or ethnic identity is a common source for affinity fraud.
• Take your time. High-pressure sales tactics will rush you into an
unwise decision. A sound investment will be just as good tomorrow or
• Document all transactions.
• Never agree to make a check payable directly to an agent.
• Carefully read and understand documents before you sign them. Don’t
sign any blank or incomplete form.
• Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To check on the status of
an agent’s license or to file a complaint against an agent, call
1-800-342-2762 or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com.