Insurance Department Charges 3 Dealers With Fraud


The state Insurance Department is seeking to revoke the licenses of three insurance dealers whom it accused of defrauding consumers by selling insurance from unlicensed and financially unstable carriers.

Broker Robert George Burnham of Studio City-based Burnham Marine Insurance Co. allegedly allowed Victor and Michelle Batarseh, owners of I & I Insurance Marketing of Sherman Oaks, to rubber-stamp Burnham’s name to policies issued by five companies unlicensed in California.

Those companies were First Assurance & Casualty Co. Ltd., Western Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Old Hickory Casualty Insurance Co., Old American Insurance Co. and Lincoln Insurance Co. All of them--except for Lincoln--have been banned by the Insurance Department from selling in California because of questionable financial strength.


Such “non-admitted” carriers are able to do business in California only through specially licensed brokers such as Burnham, who are supposed to verify the companies’ financial integrity.

Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, in a statement Monday, charged Burnham with failing to exercise his legal responsibilities by allowing the Batarsehs to use his license.

Burnham, in a telephone interview Monday, denied any wrongdoing. He said that to his knowledge, the insurers involved have been paying legitimate claims.

Victor Batarseh, also reached on Monday, said: “We had an agreement with Bob Burnham and knew of nothing wrong with it because everybody else was doing the same thing.” He declined to comment further.

First Assurance, based in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos, was identified in a recent lawsuit as responsible for $7 million in unpaid claims from last year’s Los Angeles riots.