Four people – including one San Diegan – were arrested this week in connection with an investment scam that cheated at least 28 people out of more than $3 million dollars.
The California Department of Insurance (CDI) worked with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to secure the arrests of 57-year-old Carl Battie (aka Hampton) of San Diego, 64-year-old Richard Provencio and 60-year-old Carmen Provencio of San Clemente and 43-year-old Julio Gomez.
CDI Commissioner Dave Jones says between 2008 and 2012, the suspects convinced victims statewide to invest their life savings in fake investments.
Life insurance agents Richard and Gomez would gather investors through cold calls, mailers and free dinner seminars.
The unknowing victims were promised guaranteed principal protection, which means they were guaranteed to get their investment back – if not more. That protection was a lie, the CDI says.
“The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless in the way they scammed their victims out of millions of dollars in phony investments,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in a release. “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.”
Richard’s wife, Carmen, allegedly provided all the bookkeeping and accounting for the companies American Equity, Direct Inc. and Masters of Retirements, Inc.
Battie is accused of giving Richard a financial performance guarantee through Windsor Property and Surety, LLC. However, the company was not an authorized insurance firm, so the guarantee was worthless, according to the CDI.
A joint investigation, aided by the FBI, revealed that none of the investments were secured. Many of the 28 victims – 13 of whom were elderly – lost their entire retirement savings.
Together, the suspects face 105 felony counts that include multiple securities fraud, burglary, conspiracy and elder financial abuse.
The Provencios and Battie could be sentenced to a maximum of 42 years in prison if convicted, and Gomez could get a maximum 25-year sentence.
“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,” said Jones.
Investigators believe more people may have been taken advantage of by this scheme. If you believe you are a victim, call police or the CDI’s consumer hotline at 800-927-4357.