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Man Arrested for Selling Fake Insurance Cards

5/12/2004

CONTACT: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

RIVIERA BEACH-A man has been charged with selling fraudulent motor vehicle insurance cards to nearly 200 South Florida drivers, at least a dozen of whom are now facing charges for using the fake cards, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced today.

Howard M. McKinon, 57, of 481 W 30th St., was arrested last night on 14 counts of marketing a false or fraudulent motor vehicle insurance card and one count of organized scheme to defraud. If convicted on all of the charges, he could face up to 75 years in prison. The charges stem from an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud. McKinon was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail. The Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office is prosecuting the charges.

"This individual may have put countless citizens at risk as these drivers were driving uninsured," said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. "We intend to send a strong message that we will not tolerate anyone putting citizens at such risk."

Last year, the Florida Legislature made it a third-degree felony to create, market or present a false or fraudulent motor vehicle insurance card.

State fraud investigators determined that McKinon issued at least 196 cards, most of them to drivers in West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach. Others were traced to Boynton Beach, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Belle Glade, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Wellington, Palm Springs, Lake Park, and Mangonia Park.

The investigation was initiated in January after state investigators were contacted by the Palm Beach County Tax Collector's Office. An alert clerk became suspicious of a Progressive Insurance card purporting the minimum statutory levels of Personal Injury Protection and Property Damage coverage.

Working with Progressive Insurance Company's Special Investigative Unit, state investigators determined that the insurance cards were forgeries and that the coverage did not exist. Working with the Palm Beach County Tax Collector's Office, they determined all of the suspicious cards had the same policy number, with different personal and vehicle information typed on them.

Investigators then turned to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DHSMV) Bureau of Financial Responsibility to determine how many cars had been registered with the bogus policy number.

Consumers should buy coverage from a licensed insurance agent. To check licensure of an insurance agent or company, log on to www.fldfs.com or call the department's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates fraud in all lines of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to a conviction.