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South Florida Agent Arrested for Fraud against Seniors

12/21/2005

CONTACT:  Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE—Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, today announced that a South Florida insurance agent has been arrested for bilking elderly clients in an unregistered securities scheme.
 
Thomas A. Masciarelli, 48, was arrested Tuesday by state insurance fraud detectives, charged with three counts of grand theft and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail.  He allegedly stole some $300,000 from three investors – a 58-year-old woman supporting a disabled adult daughter, an 82-year-old woman with no family, and an 80-year-old man suffering from Parkinson's disease.   Masciarelli could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted on the charges. 
 
Gallagher has also filed an administrative complaint and is seeking revocation of the agent's license.
 
"We will not put up with Florida's investors - particularly our vulnerable elderly investors - being preyed upon," said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  The department conducted the investigation along with the Office of Financial Regulation.  "We will hold this individual accountable for every victim he defrauded and every dime he stole." 
 
Masciarelli would develop strong friendships with seniors to get them to invest and encourage them to recruit other investors.  Fraud detectives said that the 82-year-old woman considered him a son.  Masciarelli also recruited potential investors through civic organizations, including the 80-year-old man he is charged with defrauding.
 
All three cases were nearly identical:  Masciarelli would sell them fixed annuities from American Investors Life Insurance Company (AILIC) and then later advise that their investments were not doing well.  He would convince them to cash out the AILIC annuities and buy investments purportedly offered through his own company, Palm Beach Financial Services, Inc.  However, detectives said Masciarelli did not invest the funds but instead used the money for personal and other expenses. 
 
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 a 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.