The former insurance life insurance agent, Joseph E. Barnes. of Suffolk, Virginia has been sentenced to two years in prison for pocketing a policyholder’s premiums for eight consecutive years.
Barnes received a two year sentence after pleading guilty to charges of obtaining money by false pretense.
A Portsmouth resident, Anitra Hawkins, had purchased an industrial life insurance policy. Those types of policies involve agents selling door-to-door, collecting weekly or monthly premiums directly from the policyholder.
From July 2005 until May 2014, Barnes made monthly visits to the woman, collecting $30.95 directly for a term life policy. Instead of forwarding the premiums to the company he represented, Barnes pocketed the money.
The victim contacted the insurance company with a question regarding her policy in 2014, but was advised that no such policy existed under her name.
An investigation by the State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance and the Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud program revealed that Barnes’ employment with said insurance company ended in 2009, even though he continued to collect payments from Hawkins for another five years.
All premium payments were returned to Hawkins. Barnes surrendered his insurance license and began paying restitution to the insurance company.
Police advise consumer to periodically verify their coverage directly with their insurance provider (not just their agent), especially when making cash premium payments directly to an agent.
More tips regarding insurance fraud protection can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website.