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Ft. Myers Agent Accused of Soliciting Local Businesses for Unlicensed Insurance Entities

6/19/2003

CONTACT: Justin Glover
(850) 413-2842

FT. MYERS – The Florida Department of Financial Services has filed an administrative complaint against an area insurance agent, accusing her of attempting to sell phony health insurance policies.

The department alleges that Diane K. Bertges, 53, of 7381 Sea Island Road, solicited at least three small businesses, inviting them to purchase insurance through an unlicensed insurance entity. Because these entities are not licensed in Florida, they are not regulated and there are no assurances of their ability to pay claims.

Bertges could have her license revoked and be subject to fines and/or restitution. Bertges has been licensed as a life and health agent since 1984.

The department has been conducting a statewide public education campaign for more than a year warning consumers to "Verify Before You Buy." An online information resource was recently unveiled as part of the campaign. Consumers may visit www.fldfs.com and click "Think You're Covered?" to view tips on how to protect themselves from this kind of fraud and a list of recent department actions against agents or unlicensed entities.

Recent legislation was passed in the 2003 session, which provides that anyone who transacts unlicensed insurance can be charged with a first-, second- or third-degree felony depending on the amount of premiums collected. The law also makes it a third-degree felony for any individual who has been banned from the industry or a licensee whose license has been suspended or revoked to transact any insurance, licensed or unlicensed. It also allows policyholders to sue an unlicensed entity that has left them with unpaid claims. It is already a third-degree felony for anyone to solicit for an unlicensed entity.

Consumers may also call the Department of Financial Services' toll free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762 to verify that they are dealing with a licensed insurance company and a licensed agent. The helpline is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.