A California insurance agent sold a $1.2 million annuity to a man with dementia and helped a relative of the man steal $700,000 in withdrawals, according to court documents.
Life agent Michael David Wolf, 59, of Moorpark, sold the $1.2 million policy to the man in 2014, six months after he had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, according to the arrest document filed in the state Superior Court in San Diego. He is also accused of helping the man’s relative and caretaker Randall Keith Smith, 61, of Oceanside, take $700,000 in early withdrawals by calling the company 14 times.
Smith impersonated the victim during telephone calls with insurance company officials and forged the beneficiary’s signature on policy documents, authorities said. Wolf and Smith made as many as six withdrawals between 2014 and 2015, according to the complaint filed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
As a result, the victim lost an additional $92,000 for penalties and early withdrawal fees, authorities said.
Wolf and Smith, who each face 16 counts of grand theft, caretaker theft and forgery, have pleaded not guilty, authorities said.
“Mr. Smith is not guilty of the charges brought against him and we look forward to proving that in court,” said Smith’s attorney Pedro Bernal.
But California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones called the alleged crime “reprehensible.”
Wolf’s License Suspended
Wolf and Smith were arrested May 3 by California Department of Insurance detectives, authorities said.
Wolf is appointed to sell on behalf of American General, Guggenheim, Nationwide, North American and Security Benefit.
His license, which expires on Oct. 31, 2018, has been suspended, California Insurance Department officials said.
If convicted, California Insurance Department officials will begin the process of revoking Wolf’s license, authorities also said.
Wolf and Smith each face a maximum of nine years in prison if convicted.
Older Americans in need of income and not always in command of their mental faculties are particularly vulnerable to scams. More than 90 percent of reported elder abuse of any kind – financial, sexual or otherwise – is committed by the victim’s own family members, the National Council on Aging reports.
Approximately one in 10 Americans age 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse, NCOA reports.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected]
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