When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 3 -- The Florida Department of Financial Services issued the following news release:
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced today the conviction of Richard M. Incandela, 60, for defrauding two Tampa seniors out of nearly $490,000 in life insurance premiums. Based on investigations conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services' divisions of Insurance Fraud and Agent and Agency Services, Incandela, who was never licensed in Florida as an insurance agent, was sentenced to 34 months in prison followed by 25 years' probation and ordered to pay full restitution to the victims. "Scam artists who prey on seniors will not be tolerated in our state," CFO Atwater said. "Every day seniors are bombarded with investment offers and it becomes impossible to know who can be trusted. I applaud the work of our fraud investigators who share my mission to get unscrupulous cheats off the streets. I encourage all Floridians to always be on guard against fraud." Incandela's conviction is based on findings that, between December 2007 and September 2009, he received 15 premium payments totaling $489,426 from two senior citizens he met after making presentations at a Tampa-area church. He offered them a profit and the return of their principal through the sale of life insurance policies in their names that he was to sell as part of a Stranger-Originated Life Insurance (STOLI) transaction. However, the two seniors' premium payments were never sent to an insurance company but instead deposited into an account for Incandela's personal use. Earlier this year, CFO Atwater launched On Guard for Seniors, a website that provides information and tips to help seniors and their caregivers fend off fraud. The Incandela story is a prime example of why CFO Atwater launched the site: Incandela and his wife Barbara, who lost her insurance license in 2010, owned the former agency, Building Value LLC, and were caught trying to sell fraudulent life insurance policies to a Greenville, S.C., church-based school. Before purchasing insurance, CFO Atwater is urging Florida consumers to also verify through Verify Before You Buy that any company, broker or agent they are considering transacting business with is licensed in Florida before signing any contract or writing out a check. Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater's priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.
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