Insurance Agents Charged with Stealing Premiums

For Immediate Release
September 28th, 2001

Contact: DDA Ken Chinn (714) 347-8734

Insurance Agents Charged with Stealing Premiums

CORRECTION: The number to report any crimes to the Dept. of Insurance is 1-800-927-HELP

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pictures of the defendants available at the District Attorney’s Office.

SANTA ANA — Two owners of an insurance brokerage company have been charged with 24 counts of grand theft and one count of conspiracy  related to a scheme involving stealing premiums from clients.

Jeffrey Warren Ferguson (DOB 8-22-65) of Bakersfield and Manuel Antonio Mendez (DOB 4-9-66) of West Covina were arrested Thursday night and are being held in lieu of $500,000 each. Ferguson was arrested in Bakersfield at 11:20 p.m.; Mendez was arrested at Maple Ridge Mobile Home Sales in Ontario at 7:30 p.m., where he was working as a salesman. Mendez is scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Dept. C-55  of the Central Justice Center. Ferguson will be transported from Bakersfield on a future date. If convicted of all charges, they face a maximum of 18 years, four months in prison.

Operating under the business name of “Least Cost Insurance,” the pair sold automobile insurance polices out of four locations: storefronts in Anaheim at 2500 E. Ball Road and Covina at 527 E. Rowland St.; the Vineland Swap Meet in the City of Industry; and Mendez’s home. In most cases, the defendants failed to forward premiums to insurance companies or obtain policies for their clients.

The scheme was discovered when motorists became involved in traffic accidents and discovered that they didn’t have any insurance to cover the damages. The victims complained to the state Department of Insurance, which opened an investigation with 25 victims. The complaint alleges that the crimes occurred between March 1999 and May 2001.

On Aug. 23, investigators from the DA’s Office and Dept. of Insurance served search warrants at the storefronts and the defendants’ homes. Investigators seized files and documents. It is estimated that the defendants pocketed about $96,000 worth of premiums.

Investigators believe that more than 500 additional victims may be driving without insurance. Anyone with any information should call the state Dept. of Insurance at 1-800-927-HELP. You can avoid becoming a victim of this scam by receiving a policy when signing up for insurance instead of merely a receipt. Also, telephone the insurance company to make sure you are covered.