Florida CFO Alex Sink urges felony charges for insurance annuity scams
By Stephen Nohlgren, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Tuesday, August 25, 2009
ST. PETE BEACH — Purchased carefully, annuities can provide retirees with a stream of income.
But when sold to the wrong customers, annuities can be nothing more than a scam, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Monday. Unscrupulous agents who peddle them for personal gain should face felony charges, she said.
"We are going to take action to stop scamming against seniors," Sink said. "We are going to make sure the Legislature does what is right."
In town to address the annual Florida Conference on Aging, the Democratic candidate for governor brought along New Port Richey residents Robert and Marie St. Germaine to help make her point.
Two years ago, an insurance agent persuaded them to roll all their investments into a $200,000 annuity. It locked up their assets for 15 years, even though Robert St. Germaine was 85 and unlikely to ever cash out. They had to borrow from friends to make ends meet.
"I would never believe he could do a thing like that," Marie St. Germaine said. "All our money was gone."
With intercession from Sink’s office, the insurance company eventually refunded the St. Germaines’ nest egg. The agent was charged with grand theft in another case that involved forged documents.
Sink said her office receives about 400 complaints about annuities a year, often from older people with limited life expectancies who end up locking up all their assets. In one case, the agent earned a $52,335 commission.
Legislation to make such sales a third-degree felony passed the Senate unanimously last year, but did not reach a committee vote in the House. Sink pledged to lobby hard for passage this year.
Florida AARP agrees, executive director Lori Parham said.
"There is no excuse for delaying passage," Parham said. "No one who has worked hard all their lives should see their savings disappear."
[Last modified: Aug 24, 2009 09:59 PM]