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News: 2012 Press Release
For Release: September 20, 2012
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones Announces Arrest of Los Angeles County Agent for Grand Theft; Burglary
Suspect Allegedly Used Premium Payments for Personal Gain
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced that Maria Balandra, 49, has been arrested by officers from the San Gabriel Police Department and charged with five felony counts for grand theft, and three felony counts for burglary. If convicted on all counts, she could face up to six years in State Prison. Balandra's bail was set at $230,000.
According to investigators, between the years 2008 and 2010, Balandra collected premium payments in the amount of $9,474.85 from victims for homeowners and auto insurance policies and then failed to remit portions of those premiums to the insurance company. Investigators discovered that victims would go to the office and pay Balandra for a year's premium on their home or auto policies, and in turn she would make small payments on the policy and allegedly keep the remainder of the premiums for her personal use.
On other occasions, investigators found that Balandra met with victims at their homes to collect the premiums, and then allegedly withheld portions of the premiums for her personal use. Victims later received cancellation notices from their insurance company for the period 2008-2010 and when they would contact Balandra, she would tell them that she would take care of it. However, it is alleged that Balandra would just make the minimum payment to keep the policy from cancelling and use the balance of the premiums collected for her personal use, thus exposing the victims to grave financial loss.
California Department of Insurance (CDI) became aware of Balandra's illegal activities when a complaint was filed by her former employer. The investigation determined that the victims had no knowledge that Balandra was using their premium payments for personal use until they received cancellation notices from the insurance company. Balandra was terminated by her employer in June 2010.
This case was investigated by CDI's Investigation Division, Los Angeles Regional Office and is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Administrative action against Balandra's insurance license is pending.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California, regulating the $123 billion insurance marketplace. In 2012 the California Department of Insurance received more than 160,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $64 million in claims and premiums. 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. Out-of-state callers, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
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