Federal officials have indicted a Carlsbad man in an alleged insurance scam where untold numbers of Southern California drivers were bilked of their insurance premiums and stiffed when they tried to collect on their claims, U.S. Atty. Nora M. Manella has announced.
In a case investigated by the California Department of Insurance and the Ventura division of the FBI, Lawrence R. Hoehne, 56, was named in a three-count indictment returned late Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on June 30.
U.S. attorneys allege that by using an offshore insurance carrier named Trelawney Insurances Limited, Hoehne effectively dodged California insurance sale requirements by misrepresenting the company’s financial status. Officials were unsure of the size of the firm or the number of policies Hoehne had sold.
To convince state insurance officials to allow Trelawney to sell insurance, Hoehne and others listed security assets that were either rented or overvalued, Assistant U.S. Atty. Marcellus McRae said.
The investigation was touched off by complaints that flowed in to state and federal agencies, as well as through civil claims filed by attorneys on behalf of frustrated Trelawney clients who were unable to collect on their claims, officials said.
Gary Auer, supervisor in the Ventura FBI office, said investigators have no idea how many victims there might be.
In many cases, he believes, people drove for years under Trelawney Insurance believing they were protected, and barring an accident or a filed claim, never knew of the problems faced by others who did file claims but could not collect.
U.S. attorneys office officials said that if Hoehne and others had disclosed that Trelawney was owned and controlled by Alan Teale--who according to federal officials was convicted on numerous counts of insurance fraud in Alabama in 1992 and later died while serving an 18-month federal prison sentence--the Department of Insurance would have known to investigate the company’s assets, ownership and licensing status.