Annuity and home refinance scam cause homeowners’ foreclosure

As home values rebound the potential for scams may also increase.

LOS ANGELES, CA – March 19, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — The California Department of Insurance (CDI) announced today that Harold John Shields of Hawthorne, CA, 57, was extradited from Houston, Texas on March 7, 2013 and booked in the Century Sheriff Station in Lynwood, CA. The suspect has been arraigned and charged with two felony counts of grand theft and two felony counts of theft from elder. Shields is being held on $500,000 bail.

“I will not tolerate insurance brokers or agents who scam innocent policyholders, especially the elderly,” said Commissioner Jones. “The alleged illegal actions of Shields resulted in the loss of two homes. My department will make sure he is brought to justice and no longer allowed to prey upon seniors.”

According to CDI Investigators, from October 2006 through April 2007, Shields doing business as Wolfe Capitol Group, accepted $30,000 in premium each from two elderly victims for annuity contracts but did not remit the premium to an insurer, and failed to refund the premium to the victims.

In addition, Shields assisted the victims in refinancing their mortgages and persuaded them to use the funds toward the payment of the annuity policy and a real estate investment. This resulted in each victim giving Shields an additional $50,000, bringing the total loss for both victims to $160,000. As a result of Shields’ alleged scheme, both victims lost their residences to foreclosure.

Shields faces a maximum of six years in prison if convicted on all charges. The case was investigated by CDI’s Investigation Division, Los Angeles Regional office and is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s, Elder Abuse Unit.

The department has issued a suspension order against Shields prohibiting him from participating in the insurance business.

If you suspect you or a loved one has been victimized, please contact CDI investigators at (213) 346-6006.

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Media Notes

This case was investigated and prosecuted under the Life and Annuity Consumer Protection Program (LACPP). LACPP provides grant funds to counties for the prosecution of financial abuse in life insurance and annuity product transactions.

Timeline

  • Oct. 2008, Complaint filed with CDI Investigation Division, Los Angeles Regional
  • Sept. 24, 2010, Felony complaint for arrest warrant issued
    Charges – two felony counts of grand theft and two felony counts of theft from elders
  • February 26, 2013 Shields is arrested in Houston, TX
  • March 7, 2013 Shields extradited from TX and booked in Lynnwood, CA
  • March 8, 2013 bail set at $500,000

Consumer Protection Tips

Deceptive sales practices seniors should be aware of when purchasing annuities.

The Senior Gateway site is dedicated to empowering seniors with information and resources. http://www.seniors.ca.gov/

Avoid Being Fooled by Deceptive Sales Practices

Watch for the following red flags, which serve as warnings of possible deceptive sales practices:

  • High-pressure sales pitch. If a particular group or agent has contacted you repeatedly, offering a limited-time deal that makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts and steer clear.
  • Quick-change tactics. Skilled scam artists will try to prey on your time fears. They may try to convince you to change coverage quickly without giving you the opportunity to do adequate research.
  • Unwilling or unable to prove credibility. A licensed agent will be more than willing to show adequate credentials.
  • Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of deceptive sales practices, or you have a specific question and can’t get the answers you need from an agent or the insurance company, contact the CDI.

Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed  to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please  dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

If you are a member of the public wishing information, please visit our Consumer Services.

Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566

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