States Pull O'Garro's Insurance Licenses

By Jenna Carlesso and Vanessa De La Torre, The Hartford Courant
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 12--Insurance regulators from more than a dozen states said they have revoked or suspended insurance licenses for Earl O'Garro Jr., the man at the center of a Hartford controversy involving unpaid premiums.

O'Garro, the embattled chief executive officer of Hybrid Insurance Group, at one time held licenses in 39 states to conduct insurance business, records show. But officials in many states told The Courant that they have recently pulled his licenses because of the regulatory action in Connecticut.

On Nov. 14, the Connecticut Insurance Department revoked O'Garro's license after he failed to respond to an 11-count complaint outlining numerous allegations of possible fraud and missing premium payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hybrid, which had been headquartered at 30 Lewis St. in Hartford, also had its license revoked.

Insurance departments in Alabama, Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, South Dakota and Tennessee have since revoked, suspended, inactivated or otherwise terminated O'Garro's "non-resident" insurance licenses, officials in those agencies said.

In many cases, insurance officials said the action is required because of the revocation of O'Garro's license in his home state of Connecticut.

The Michigan Insurance Department has sent a notice informing him that his license will become inactive on Dec. 23 if officials don't receive a response by then, said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Michigan agency. And in Wisconsin, the insurance department will revoke O'Garro's license on Feb. 2 unless he has a valid Connecticut license, according to an official at the agency.

Regulators from Arkansas and Colorado reported that they are also reviewing O'Garro's licenses for possible action. In several other states, such as West Virginia and Ohio, his licenses are set to expire at the end of the year, officials said, and he cannot renew them unless he has good standing in Connecticut.

O'Garro could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

O'Garro is under federal investigation for allegedly failing to pay $670,000 in premiums to two of the city's insurance carriers.

Hartford officials said that the insurance premiums for the city's excess liability coverage have been unaccounted for since Treasurer Adam Cloud's office wired the money to Hybrid on July 18. John Griffin, the director of risk management, filed a complaint in September with the state insurance department, alleging Hybrid never paid the premiums to carriers Starr Indemnity and National Casualty.

The coverage remains in place, however, because state law protects insured parties that can show they have paid an agent or broker.

Cloud's ties to O'Garro have been questioned since his office wired the premium payments directly to Hybrid, rather than to the city's contracted insurance agent, after O'Garro claimed the excess liability policies were in danger of cancellation.

City and school finance officials said the wire transfer to Hybrid violated basic operating protocols. In the city's financial management system that tracks spending, Hybrid is not listed as a vendor that could receive payments, records show.

Until recently, Hybrid Insurance was located in a building on Lewis Street in Hartford that is owned by Cloud, his brother and father. The firm, which O'Garro founded in 2010, employed about 15 people at its peak and had been approved for a $500,000 loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to hire more.

O'Garro received the first $250,000 installment in August, months after Hybrid had begun unraveling and just as it was about to collapse. O'Garro was in default for non-payment by late October and owes the state $264,528 for that loan.

He also got a separate, $126,000 loan and grant package in March 2012 to move Hybrid and a handful of employees from a Windsor office park to Hartford. O'Garro has defaulted on that loan as well.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen's office said Thursday that economic and community development officials have asked Jepsen to advise them of their options for collecting the funds loaned to O'Garro.

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(c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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