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Pa.: Firm Cheated Customers [Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA)]

A local insurance broker overcharged customers by secretly changing their auto policies, according to the state Insurance Department. These changes were made from 2009 into 2012 without the policyholders' knowledge, according to the Insurance Department. The scheme was "governed by" Francis Schwenk and Goebeler, the Insurance Department said.

By Tim Mekeel
Proquest LLC

Business Editor

A local insurance broker overcharged customers by secretly changing their auto policies, according to the state Insurance Department.

Consumers Insurance Group, 101 Good Drive, increased the number of annual miles driven and the limits of accidental death coverage.

These changes were made from 2009 into 2012 without the policyholders' knowledge, according to the Insurance Department.

Issued cease-and-desist orders and hit with civil penalties were:

nConsumers Insurance Group, $15,000.

nAgency owner Francis V. Schwenk, $5,000.

nGeneral manager Thomas E. Goebeler, $5,000.

nSchwenk's daughter-in-law, Laura M. Schwenk, a CIG producer, $5,000.

nLarry E. Snyder, also a CIG producer, $5,000.

The scheme was "governed by" Francis Schwenk and Goebeler, the Insurance Department said.

According to the department, Goebeler, Snyder and Laura Schwenk improperly altered the policies.

Affected were an undisclosed number of CIG customers who were renewing policies with Erie Insurance, according to the department.

By changing the mileage and death coverage, CIG increased the premiums that policyholders paid to Erie Insurance.

Erie Insurance, in turn, paid higher fees to Consumers Insurance Group.

A department spokesman said it's too early in its review to know how many customers were bilked and the exact amount of the loss.

A full accounting is expected in late April and will be made public at that time, said spokesman Rosanne Placey on Monday.

"It's a relatively low amount of total restitution, among a number of customers," she said.

The amount of total restitution will be less than $50,000, she said.

Placey said that Erie Insurance is notifying the affected customers and returning the excess premiums to them.

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"They will be made whole by Erie," Placey said, "Erie then will seek their restitution from the agency (CIG).

"We don't want the agency touching consumers in this matter. We want Erie doing that."

The scam was disclosed in five consent orders issued by the Insurance Department in January. The consent orders can be found on the department website.

Besides the cease-and-desist orders and civil penalties, the department also could suspend or revoke the licenses of the company and individuals once its investigation is complete.

Francis Schwenk and Goebeler did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the case.

Erie spokesman Leah Knapp referred questions to the Insurance Department, saying the case was an Insurance Department matter.

tmekeel@lnpnews.com

Copyright:(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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