It's a troubling problem across the state of California: Some insurance agents are stealing from their clients.
In 2022, the state's department of Insurance has found at least a dozen agents who stole from their clients. One of those agents allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from a man who used to live in Carlsbad.
"My father was a very interesting, multifaceted man," said Bianca Juarez, the daughter of Gregg Juarez.
Bianca said that, during his final years, Gregg became a bit of a recluse, even from his family.
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"He was very paranoid about anyone wanting to take advantage of him," Bianca said. "He had money in different bank accounts all over the place."
Because the accounts were all split up, Bianca said, no one noticed Gregg's money was being stolen until after his death, in 2018.
"There was no one person looking at his affairs saying it didn't make sense," Bianca said. "Gregg went from spending $900 a year on insurance to $2,000 every month. We found all the checks, and they obviously weren't in Gregg's handwriting."
The California D epartment of Insurance thinks it knows who took the money.
"There is a case pending here in San Diego against this individual, who is a former licensee of ours," said Gustavo Ramos, a regional supervising investigator with the CDI.
Gregg's ormer insurance agent, John Ryan, worked out of Palm Springs but is now in custody awaiting a preliminary hearing. He has been charged with 45 counts of grand theft, identity theft and elder abuse connected to the more than $75,000 he allegedly stole from Juarez.
Ryan has pleaded not guilty to the charges. NBC 7 Responds reached out to him and his attorney for a comment on this story but has not hear back.
This isn't an isolated case. Going back to the beginning of the year, NBC 7 noticed a pattern. More than a dozen insurance agents arrested, accused of taking money from the very people who put their trust in them.
While it looks like this problem is growing, Ramos said, the department is just being more intentional about bringing these cases to the public eye. The CDI said these types of crimes cost people millions of dollars just last year.
"I would safely say that 70 to 80% of our victims are elderly," said Ramos.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
- Make sure your insurance agent is licensed with the CDI
- Keep an eye out for larger-than-expected insurance charges on your bank statements
- Set a reminder to check your insurance policies a few times a year to see if they're still active and make sure your premiums have been paid
- Ask elderly family members about getting access to their accounts so they can be monitored for suspicious charges
The CDI wants to make it clear that the vast majority of insurance agents are trustworthy and go through ethics training in order to be licensed. The department is also asking Ryan's clients to check their insurance policies to make sure the premiums have been paid.