California Agent Sentenced for Stealing $174K in Premiums from Truck Drivers

January 10, 2020

Connie Free, 34, of Moreno Valley, Calif., was sentenced this week to 22 felony counts and one misdemeanor count including grand theft and forgery after reportedly stealing at least $174,000 in insurance premiums from 11 different victims.

Free received a five-year sentence requiring 180 days in jail, 180 days in work release and the remainder of her sentence on felony probation. Free’s sentencing also includes an order for restitution to her victims.

Free was ordered to return to court on Feb. 21, 2020, for a restitution hearing, after which she is expected to surrender and begin her sentence.

The former insurance agent allegedly targeted port truck drivers who lost their operator authority as a result of not having insurance.

After receiving consumer complaints, the California Department of Insurance launched an investigation, which revealed Free, acting as “Justyce Insurance” or “Pure Justyce Insurance Agency” accepted premium payments from her victims and failed to remit payments to insurance carriers, instead converting the payments for her own use.

Between September 2017 and July 2018, at least seven victims reportedly paid Free for coverage that was not placed with an insurer.

The investigation found Free would establish contact with her victims by soliciting them through telephone, email or a postcard offering competitive quotes with attractive rates on commercial vehicle insurance.

Free would then gather the victim’s vehicle information, provide a quote for the desired coverage, and if accepted, have the victim make a cash payment directly into her bank account, so she could pay the carrier to immediately establish a policy for them.

Some victims reportedly received fraudulent Certificates of Insurance and Insurance Identification Cards.

Free’s victims were primarily truck drivers and small businesses in the trucking or charter bus industry. Some of Free’s victims discovered that their “authority” to operate as a motor carrier was suspended by reviewing their own status on either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement websites.

In some cases, the victims were turned away when attempting to haul loads from or return chassis to port terminals or service client sites. Other victims reportedly had to decline jobs after learning Free failed to place coverage.

These victims were forced to find and pay for other policies to meet the coverage requirements that would allow them to resume their businesses, causing them to incur losses over and above the premium amounts provided to Free for nonexistent policies, according to the CDI.

Free reportedly failed to provide refunds, and in most circumstances refused to even respond to inquiries made by her victims.

This case was prosecuted by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. The CDI has issued an order to permanently revoke Free’s insurance, which was suspended in 2018.

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