The following are narratives of past cases resolved by Florida and Federal securities and insurance regulators that demonstrate a variety of ways in which unscrupulous insurance agents and stock brokers take advantage of the elderly in connection with the sale of annuities and insurance products.
Since these abuses tend to repeat themselves, if you are being urged to purchase an annuity or insurance product by an agent you may find this past history helpful. If you have any doubts, get a second opinion from a trusted professional.
- In October 2004, an 84 year old retiree from Delray Beach, FL , attended a seminar in which Eric J. Brown was discussing investments. A couple of days after the seminar, he made arrangements to meet with Brown who criticized his current insurance agent, and he falsely advised him that the company from which he had earlier purchased and was holding annuity contracts with was having financial difficulties.Brown told him that if he transferred his old annuity policy to the new company, he would be provided with a “bonus.” When he told Brown that he was concerned about suffering $33,000 in surrender penalties, Brown assured him that the return on the new policy would offset all but $3,000 of the penalties to be incurred within the first year.
Brown advised him that another policy he had was not worth keeping as well and on the instruction of Brown he signed a number of blank forms to effectuate the transfer and purchase.
Brown had intentionally misled this elderly victim and there was no bonus and he suffered large losses due to the surrender fees.
Brown, who had worked for Prime Capital Services, was sanctioned by the FLA Department of Financial Services and removed him from the insurance industry and he was assessed civil penalties in excess of $500,000 by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- In 2005, a man from Boynton Beach, FL, was pursuing court proceedings to be appointed his father’s , who was 90 years old, guardian. The father was living with his companion of 15 years. Due to his advanced age and lack of short-term memory, he was unable to manage his own finances; instead he relied on his companion who had power of attorney.The companion insurance agent Joseph Ripa that she needed an investment through which she could safely keep some money for a very short period of time and explained to Ripa that she needed to have full access to the money whenever she needed it. Ripa falsely represented to the companion , who was 82 years of age, that an annuity investment was appropriate to meet these investment objectives and convinced her to purchase an annuity.
Ripa misrepresented the terms and conditions of this investment by failing to disclose that the investment he described was actually an equity-indexed deferred annuity, carrying ten years of surrender charges as high as twelve percent.
In direct contradiction to her stated objective of having full access to her money whenever she needed it, and the victims’ full understanding of the terms and conditions of the investment, Ripa placed the funds in an annuity whereby access to her money would be limited for the following ten years, or until she was 92 years of age.
The Department of Financial Services permanently revoked the insurance licenses of Joseph Ripa and fined him $40,000. Then Florida Chief Financial Officer made the following statement in connection with the revocation of Ripa’s license: “It is sad and deplorable that anyone would take advantage of senior citizens looking for help in supplementing their income,” said CFO Sink. “This man knowingly locked his customers’ money away in annuities that could be accessed only by paying steep penalties or after a dozen years or more, and that certainly was not to the benefit of the customers he targeted.”
- A 94 year old resident of New Port Richey, FL, and her husband had purchased annuities since 1994 and had nine of them with American Investors Life.In 1996, they heard an agent, Bijan Razdar, discussing annuities on the radio which created enough interest that they decided to attend one of his seminars. After attending the seminar, they decided not to do business with him at that time but approximately one year later, Razdar called them and arranged an appointment and decided to do business with him and purchased two deferred annuities for approximately $65,000.
Following her husband’s death, Razdar began moving the annuities from one company to another or “twisting” policies in order to generate commissions.
She told the agent that she did not want any investment that restricted her access to funds from the annuity for more than 5 years nor did she want to pay any surrender charges. Notwithstanding , the agent gave her blank forms to sign that she didn’t understand. She “trusted” the agent was working on her behalf.
Over a period of six years, Razdar sold the couple approximately 30 annuities by convincing them to surrender old ones to buy new ones and suffered significant monetary penalties as a result.
The victims paid over $20,000 in surrender charges, lost ownership of nearly $293,000 through multiple “twisting” of annuity policies, and were left with policies that had a surrender period of 14 years.
Razdar’s license was permanently revoked by the Department of Financial Services.
- An 89 year old lady from Clearwater, FL, also fell victim to Radzar’s radio advertisement and believed him when he told her she would not make any money by keeping the annuities she already owned. She followed his advice and liquidated the existing policies and purchased ten new ones, costing about $1.5 million. Radzar earned over $200,000 in commissions and she lost nearly $100,000 on surrender charges. Unfortunately she was victimized again when John Morehart portrayed himself as a white knight who could undo Radzar’s misdeeds. He convinced her to liquidate the new annuities and buy a single premium life policy and place $200,000 in a fraudulent investment which turned out to be the bank account of his wife Debra. The Morehart’s licenses were revoked and they were barred from the industry.
- An 81 year from Tallahassee, FL, and his wife, suffering from dementia in a nursing home, were targeted by Georgia insurance agent Shannon Vick who convinced the couple to cash out existing annuity policies and other savings which he had them use to purchase life insurance and annuity policies. Vick also convinced the couple to take out a reverse mortgage on their home. The $60,000 proceeds from the mortgage was use by Vick to purchase another life insurance policy. Vick, who had worked for ING/Old World Finance was arrested and charged in Georgia with conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and exploitation of an elderly person.
Rex Securities Law provides nationwide representation to investors seeking recovery of investment losses due to the negligence or fraud of stockbrokers and broker dealers. If you have questions about how your account has been handled, call to speak with an experienced securities attorney. Most cases handled on a contingent fee basis meaning that you do not pay legal fees unless we are successful.
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