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Unauthorized Water Craft Insurer Ordered to Stop Florida Operations, Agent Facing License Revocation

10/16/2003

CONTACT: Nina Banister (DFS)
(850) 413-2842
Bob Lotane (OIR)
(850) 413-2515 or (850) 528-2868

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has ordered a Canadian company to stop selling unauthorized insurance in the state, and a Venice agent is facing revocation of his license for selling the bogus coverage.

In an Immediate Final Order issued by Office of Insurance Regulation Director Kevin McCarty, North American Marine General Insurance Co., Ltd. (North American), has been ordered to stop transacting unauthorized coverage for personal watercraft, commercial charters, liability and towing. North American, with addresses in Canada and the Republic of Panama, has no authorization to transact insurance in Florida.

The bogus coverage was marketed through the International Water Safety Foundation (IWSF), of London, England and Quebec, Canada. IWSF also is not authorized to engage in the insurance business in Florida and also is ordered to stop marketing the product.

"It has come to my attention that this entity has not only been engaging in this illegal activity in Florida, but has also been ordered to cease the activity in other states," said McCarty. "I consider them to be a danger to the public welfare."

In a separate action today, the Department of Financial Services issued an administrative complaint against Leonard LoCastro III, president of LoCastro Insurance Services, Inc., in Venice. The complaint alleges LoCastro sold a policy to the owner of a jet ski rental business in Englewood. The policy was sold as a benefit of membership in the IWSF, and LoCastro was paid a referral fee. He faces suspension or revocation of his license, and could be held liable for any unpaid claims.

For two years the Department has conducted a public education campaign warning consumers to "Verify Before You Buy." Prior to any transaction, consumers and agents are urged to call the department's consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or check on-line at www.fldfs.com to be sure an insurance company is authorized to conduct insurance business in Florida.

Unauthorized insurance companies may not have adequate reserves to pay claims, and there is no guaranty fund to cover unpaid claims should the company become insolvent. Depending on the amount of premiums collected, an individual can be charged with up to a first-degree felony for transacting unauthorized insurance.

Desde febrero de 2001, se le ordenó a más de 150 entidades de seguros, distribuidores, filiales, agentes y otros individuos no autorizados dejar de vender seguros no autorizados en la Florida. More than 30,000 Floridians have been left with unpaid claims after buying these bogus policies, most of them for health insurance.

"By checking to make sure they are dealing with a licensed company, consumers and employers can protect themselves from the financial devastation that thousands of Floridians have suffered," said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. "It is critical to ask questions and know what you are buying."