Individuals scammed out of more than $3 million by worthless investment contracts
News: 2014 Press Release
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Four suspects were arrested this week as a result of a joint investigation involving the California Department of Insurance and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. The individuals in custody allegedly scammed at least 28 victims state-wide, many of whom were seniors, out of more than $3 million in worthless investments.
"I have zero tolerance for those who purposefully deceive individuals, especially seniors, by offering false promises and long term financial security as part of their scam," said Commissioner Dave Jones. "These criminals conspired to convince consumers to invest their life savings in bogus investments, which left many of them financially devastated. Anyone who targets insurance consumers and threatens the stability of the marketplace will be brought to justice by my department and our law enforcement partners."
The suspects: Richard Provencio, 64; Carmen Provencio, 60; Julio Gomez, 43 and Carl Battie (aka Hampton), 57; face 105 felony counts including multiple securities fraud, elder financial abuse, burglary and conspiracy. Between 2008 and 2012 Provencio, a former life insurance agent, and Gomez, a licensed life insurance agent solicited investors through cold calling, mailers and free dinner seminars. Many victims invested due to the promised guaranteed principal protection, which was a false guarantee.
"The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless in the way they scammed their victims out of millions of dollars in phony investments," DA Bonnie Dumanis said. "I'm proud of the work our Insurance Fraud Unit is doing to bring justice to these victims, which include senior citizens who became victims of elder fraud and theft. We're also encouraging any other potential victims to come forward."
The investigation revealed that Carmen Provencio, wife of Richard Provencio, was complicit in the scheme by providing all bookkeeping and accounting for Provencio's companies, American Equity, Direct Inc. and Masters of Retirements, Inc. Battie provided Provencio with a financial performance guarantee by Windsor Property and Surety, LLC., although the company was not an authorized insurance company which made the guarantee worthless.
This joint investigation was also assisted from the California Office of Business Oversight and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation revealed that none of the investments were secured and many victims lost their entire retirement savings to this scam. If you believe that you may have been a victim of Provencio or Gomez, please contact local law enforcement or the California Department of Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357.
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- Richard Provencio, 64, San Clemente, CA, possible 42 years in state prison;
- Carmen Provencio, 60, San Clemente, CA, possible 42 years in state prison;
- Julio Gomez, 43, arrested in Georgia by Federal Bureau of Investigation, possible 25 years in state prison;
- Carl Battie, 57 (aka. Carl Hampton), San Diego, CA, possible 42 years in state prison.
- No booking photos available;
- 28 victims, 13 of which are seniors.
This case is being prosecuted by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office 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.
Media inquiries for San Diego County District Attorney's Office: Tanya Sierra, Public Affairs Officer 619-531-3315.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $289 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $394 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 or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.