Jacob Richard Bonzer, 27, formerly of Lake Forest, Calif. was arrested Wednesday in Chicago by a U.S. Marshals Task Force on 96 felony counts including grand theft, forgery and denial of benefits.
According to a joint investigation between the California Department of Insurance, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Brea Police Department, Bonzer perpetrated several schemes for his personal financial gain.
The department received a complaint alleging Bonzer submitted 128 fraudulent homeowners insurance applications containing bogus information using nonexistent policyholders for real properties, causing valid policies to be issued for phantom homeowners in escrow between April and July 2010. Bonzer allegedly received $46,000 in advanced commissions from the insurance company that expected to collect premiums when the properties closed escrow. Since the applicants were bogus, the insurer never received premium payments and Bonzer was eventually fired.
Investigators allege Bonzer continued his scam through another agent after he was fired. It was determined Bonzer created a fictitious mortgage company that referred all residential short-sale business to Bonzer for homeowners insurance. Bonzer used the same scheme leading the insurer to believe they would receive premium payments at the close of escrow. Numerous policies were resubmitted multiple times with an explanation that escrow closing had been delayed. In some cases Bonzer received duplicate commission payments for the same property. Between August 2010 and November 2011, approximately 790 fraudulent homeowners insurance applications, containing bogus information, were submitted by Bonzer under another agent. As a result Bonzer received commission payments of $239,000.
Investigators also allege that in 2012 Bonzer created a fictitious insurance company called GW Mutual Risk Retention Group, LLC, which was registered in Florida. GW Mutual is not licensed to write insurance in California though Bonzer sold workers’ comp and commercial insurance policies through his agency, Bonzer Insurance Brokerage, located in Orange County. Bonzer collected roughly $280,000 in premium from 58 California businesses that believed they were purchasing valid coverage.
Bonzer orchestrated these elaborate scams by using multiple post office boxes, virtual assistants, business entities, office spaces, email accounts, website domains and bank accounts. The department has reason to believe that there are additional victims. Anyone who did business with Jacob Bonzer or believe they may be a victim can contact Department of Insurance supervising investigator Vera Grunke at (714) 712-7600.
If convicted, Bonzer faces a maximum sentence of more than 87 years in state prison.
This case is being prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney. Bonzer is being held at the Cook County Detention Center pending extradition to Orange County. Bonzer’s bail is set at $600,000.
“Bonzer allegedly created more than a thousand insurance policies based on fraudulent information, which allowed him to collect $285,000 in unearned commission payments,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.