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Career Criminal Gets 20 Years for Insurance Fraud

2/20/2003

CONTACT: Nina Bottcher
(850) 413-2842

STUART – A former resident of Jupiter was sentenced Wednesday in Martin County Circuit Court to 20 years in prison after pleading no contest to fraud and grand theft charges stemming from his use of aliases to swindle elderly victims, Florida's Chief Financial Officer announced today.

William J. McKernan, 56, operated under at least 15 aliases in selling insurance in the state after having his agent's license revoked twice, most recently in August 2002. Wednesday's sentence is the culmination of a joint investigation by the Department of Financial Services' Bureau of Agent and Agency Investigation and Division of Insurance Fraud.

McKernan's history with the department played prominently in the implementation of new licensing and investigative procedures aimed at preventing those revoked from the industry from sneaking back in, Gallagher said.

"Mr. McKernan was an especially egregious offender, and his sentence demonstrates that," Gallagher said.

McKernan used various bogus names to obtain fake driver's licenses and other identification in order to work in the insurance industry. He entered a plea of no contest to fraud, grand theft and related charges in December.

McKernan's two-decade criminal record includes convictions for grand theft, fraud and exploiting the elderly. Most recently, he tricked eight residents of Palm Beach and Martin counties into buying policies they either didn't need or didn't want. McKernan preyed on elderly victims, some of whom thought they were updating medical information related to health insurance when in fact they were signing documents to purchase life insurance.

Gallagher offers the following tips to consumers:


· Verify before you buy. Make sure you are dealing with a licensed insurance agent who works for companies authorized to sell insurance in Florida.

· Be alert to potential scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

· Remember: an insurance policy is a contract. Read it carefully. Talk with your agent if you have questions or concerns.

· Consumers can request free copies of our helpful consumer guides, which offer information and advice on insurance for your home, auto, life, health, and many others. Call 1-800-342-2762 for a free guide or download the guide of your choice at our website, www.fldfs.com.


The Department of Financial Services' Bureau of Agent and Agency Investigation investigates allegations of improper conduct by licensed agents and those posing as agents. The Division of Insurance Fraud investigates fraud in all types of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation. Anyone with information about possible insurance fraud should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to a conviction.