Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrest of a former insurance agent who allegedly pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in premiums and left dozens of homeowners in Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough counties without coverage during the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons.
Bruce Anthony Fonte, 53, former owner of the now-defunct Family Insurance, located in Port Richey, Fla., is charged with organized scheme to defraud in the first degree, punishable by up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
The arrest is a result of an investigation and joint effort on the part of multiple divisions of the Department of Financial Services, including the Division of Insurance Fraud, the Division of Agent and Agency Services, the Division of Legal Services and the Division of Consumer Services. Fonte turned himself in to the Pasco County Jail on Sept. 18.
“This individual abused his customers’ trust and put them at great risk for his own personal gain,” Sink said. “I commend those who worked quickly to stop additional customers from being harmed.”
DIF initiated the criminal investigation after Agent and Agency Services notified detectives that Fonte had sold phony homeowners policies to 44 citizens and kept the more than $90,000 in premiums for himself. Legal Services immediately suspended and then later revoked Fonte’s insurance license, permanently banning Fonte from the business of insurance in Florida.
Detective Doreen Rapp, DIF’s lead investigator in the criminal case, said the investigation revealed victims were defrauded and left without homeowners insurance from March 2003 until December 2005, a period in which Florida was struck by eight destructive hurricanes.
Fonte allegedly stole the money to support a gambling addiction, and refunded premiums to some victims when confronted. One of the victims includes a single mother of two who has an unpaid homeowners claim totaling $8,945 for damages her home sustained when a hurricane ripped through Pasco County in 2005.
The lapses in coverage forced several victims to obtain homeowners policies through the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., for hundreds of dollars more in premiums. A number of victims unable to afford the premium increases are living in homes that remain uninsured.
Criminal charges will be filed in Pinellas County by Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
Source: Florida Department of Financial Services
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.