News: 2009 Press Release
For Release: November 3, 2009
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Commissioner Poizner Announces Bay Area Insurance Agent Convicted on Theft Charges, Ordered To Pay $200,000 In Restitution
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today announced that Charles Alten Weidinger, 69, of San Francisco, was convicted of misdemeanor theft. He will serve two years probation and was ordered to pay $175,000 in restitution to a trust and $25,000 restitution to the California Department of Insurance for investigative costs.
"No matter how small the theft or the penalty, our investigators work hard to make sure consumers are protected from all crimes," Commissioner Poizner said. "Although the amount stolen was relatively small, the economic damages to the victim were staggering."
A CDI investigation determined that Weidinger had stolen $5,903, which was the full amount of an insurance premium and never purchased the requested general liability insurance policy for the Miller Family Trust. As a result, the Trust incurred more than $100,000 in legal expenses defending itself in a civil lawsuit for which it did not have insurance coverage. In 2008, the Trust was awarded $243,297 in a default judgment against Weidinger plus $26,189 in attorney fees. That judgment was vacated soon after the Trust's civil attorney settled for $175,000, believing he could never recover the full judgment from Weidinger.
The civil lawsuit arose when the plaintiff, Lassen Peak Winery, alleged that the Miller Family Trust had misappropriated certain deeded water rights of the plaintiff. The Winery, which owns the property adjacent to two lots owned by the Trust, alleged that on June 4, 2004, and several times thereafter, it demanded that the Trust cease its activities, which were preventing the plaintiff from receiving the total water amount deeded.
Lassen Peak Winery contended in the civil suit that the Trust's misappropriation of its water rights caused damage to the Winery's fruit, vineyard, wine production and business reputation. The civil suit is believed to have been settled, but Weidinger's crime left the Trust exposed to the liability.
Weidinger agreed to a plea agreement where he will be issued a restricted license so he may continue to earn money to pay off the restitution payments. An investigation of Weidinger's business did not reveal any other victims or thefts.
The case was investigated by the CDI Investigation Division's Benicia office and prosecuted by the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Commissioner Poizner oversees 16 CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Approximately 1,900 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance's enforcement division since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 - more arrests than have been made during any other two year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
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