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Former Broward County Agent Charged with Stealing $92,000 in Premiums from More than 50 Customers

9/16/2005

CONTACT: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842 
       
 TALLAHASSEE—Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced today that a former insurance agent was arrested today on charges that he misappropriated more than $92,000 in insurance premiums from more than 50 customers.  He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted on the charges.
 
Joel Berg, 58, former owner of J.B. Williams & Company in Weston and Seacoast Marine Insurance, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale was arrested at his home this morning by detectives with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.  He was booked into the Broward County Jail on charges of organized fraud and misappropriation of insurance premium.  Bond was set at $28,500. 
 
"Beyond the criminal act of stealing, this agent put his customers at risk of not having the coverage they need to protect their property," said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of
Financial Services. 
 
The fraud division's investigation determined that, from June of 2002 through March of 2003, Berg accepted insurance premiums for marine insurance from at least 50 customers and did not forward the premium to the insurance company.  In each instance, investigators said, Berg received the insurance premiums from the customers and deposited the funds into his personal bank account. 
 
The Broward County State Attorney's Office is prosecuting the charges.  The department's Division of Agent and Agency Services revoked his agent's license in April.
 
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in 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 Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.