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Gallagher Revokes License of Agent Who Left Homes and Businesses without Coverage during 2005 Hurricanes

3/9/2006

CONTACT:  Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842 

Customers urged to verify coverage
 
PORT RICHEY—Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, has revoked the insurance agent license of Bruce Anthony Fonte, an owner of Family Insurance of West Pasco, and is asking anyone who bought insurance from Fonte or Family Insurance of West Pasco to call the Department of Financial Services' Consumer Helpline to verify coverage.
 
Fonte, 51, operated Family Insurance of West Pasco located at 6640 Ridge Road, and admitted leaving possibly dozens of home and business owners without insurance during the 2005 hurricane season.  The revocation stems from an investigation conducted by the Department's Division of Agent and Agency Services, Bureau of Investigation, and Legal Services.  In January, Fonte was placed under an emergency suspension as allegations began to emerge, and is now permanently banned from engaging in the business of insurance in Florida.
 
"This kind of insurance fraud leads to the overall negative perception of Florida's insurance professionals," said Gallagher, who oversees the department.  "We will continue to crack down on these unscrupulous criminals in order to prevent them from victimizing other Floridians."
 
Fonte failed to forward premiums to insurance companies to bind coverage for his clients, and instead used the premiums for personal expenses.  Gallagher is asking anyone who bought insurance from Fonte to call the department's Helpline at 1-800-342-2762 and also to call their insurance company to confirm coverage.  DFS consumer specialists are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
 
"This is a tragic reminder that it may not be enough to review the documents; you may need to follow up with the insurance company to ensure coverage is in place," Gallagher said. "Also, never pay in cash and never write a check to the insurance agent or agency.  Always make the check payable to the insurance company that will provide the coverage."
 
The Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Investigation, investigates insurance agents and agencies concerning violations of the Florida insurance regulations. Anyone with information or questions about this case should call the department's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762.