The Texas Department of Insurance says a public adjusting firm that was sanctioned last month by Louisiana regulators has pocketed more than $300,000 in insurer payouts intended for Texas property owners.
TDI is asking the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings to revoke the public adjuster license issued to Andrew Joseph Mitchell and order him to pay restitution to his victims. The department says Mitchell forged the signatures of property owners on checks from insurance companies in order to deposit their payout checks into his own bank account.
The department’s petition to SOAH lists seven victims, identified only by their initials, and alleges total losses of $335,082.56.
Mitchell did business under the name Mitchell Adjusting International. The Louisiana Department of Insurance on July 22 suspended a public adjuster licensed issued to his son, Kade Austen Mitchell, and Mitchell Adjusting International in Clear Lake Shores, Texas.
The Louisiana enforcement action says Kade Mitchell forged an endorsement signature on a $150,000 check from Nationwide Insurance intended for the New Hope Baptist Church in New Orleans. He also allegedly cashed another check for $117,441.43 sent to him by Jocelyn A. Hogan of Des Allemands and kept all of the money, according to a cease and desist order that the department issued to Mitchell and Mitchell International Adjusting.
Texas Department of Insurance spokesman Ben Gonzalez said the department is aware of the Louisiana enforcement action. The total amount of money allegedly stolen in the two states now tops $600,000, but Gonzalez refused to say whether the department had referred the case to state prosecutors.
“We can’t discuss any potential pending criminal investigations,” he said in an email. “All I can say is that there are separate tracts for our administrative actions and criminal investigations.”
Documents on the Texas SOAH website show that Andrew Joseph Mitchell — the father — changed his name from Andrew Joseph Aga on Dec. 5, 2019. On June 2, 2020, he became a designated responsible licensed person for Mitchell Adjusting International.
Mitchell, under the name Aga, had obtained a Texas public adjuster’s license in 2011 and notified the department of the name change, the SOAH records show.
Mitchell filed paperwork to create businesses named International Consulting Group, Texas Wind Consultants and Loss Consultants of Texas, according to TDI. None of those companies are licensed to conduct the business of insurance in the state, TDI says.
The department’s petitioned SOAH to take enforcement on June 22. Its petition says in 2019 and 2020 Mitchell cashed seven settlement checks from insurers that were intended for claimants by forging signatures. Metropolitan General Insurance Co. and Cypress Property and Casualty Insurance Co. filed complaints with the Insurance Department.
In one instance, Mitchell mailed two checks totaling more than $300,000 to a client whose settlement checks he had cashed, but the checks were returned due to insufficient funds, the petition says.
The department says Mitchell misappropriated, converted to his own use and illegally withheld money belonging to an insured, engaged in fraudulent or dishonest acts and engaged in acts constituting the business of insurance without a license.
Mitchell Adjusting International could not be reached for comment. The company’s internet address returns an error notice. The company did not respond to an email sent to two email addresses listed on TDI’s enforcement documents.
SOAH records show that attorney David W. Alexander filed a notice of appearance on Mitchell’s behalf on July 26 and filed an answer to the state’s allegations. He did not return a telephone call left with his office on Friday or respond to an email.
SOAH has scheduled a hearing on TDI’s petition for Oct. 2 at its office in Austin.
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