Fake Property Insurer Stole Homeowners’ Money
U.S. Attorney’s Office: A Pensacola man created a fake insurance company, sold policies, kept premiums, and led homeowners to falsely believe they had coverage.
PENSACOLA, Fla. – An insurance company is permanently shut down after dozens of clients paid over $4.8 million for policies that were fake, federal officials said. Instead of buying insurance for his clients, John Thomas, 52, of Pensacola, Florida, deposited their money into his bank account, according to court documents.
Through the years-long scheme, he used his clients’ money to buy a Pensacola Beach condo, real estate in Utah, a Lexus and more, court documents show.
Thomas Insurance LLC clients were misled into believing they were insured because Thomas gave them what appeared to be real insurance policy documents after they paid him, according to prosecutors. The documents, however, were fake, prosecutors said.
Now, Thomas has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for wire fraud and money laundering, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida announced in a March 22 news release. A judge also ordered him to pay more than $8.3 million in restitution as part of his sentencing, the release said.
“The victims in this case suffered significant loss and pain as a result of this deception, never knowing they were without insurance coverage until disaster struck,” Sherri E. Onks, FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Jacksonville division, said in a statement.
McClatchy News contacted Thomas’ attorney for comment on March 23 and didn’t immediately receive a response.
67 victims defrauded in fake insurance scheme
From September 2013 to February 2021, Thomas defrauded at least 67 people by selling them fake commercial property insurance, commercial flood insurance, general liability insurance and more, according to an indictment.
“By not purchasing insurance with the premiums paid by his clients, (he) caused approximately $2,262,956.74 in unpaid claim losses caused by hurricane, fire and liability claims,” the indictment says.
Thomas emailed these clients fake certificates of insurance that were supposed to show their valid insurance policy had been written and issued, according to the indictment. He faked the information on the certificates, including policy numbers, expiration dates and insurance limits, the indictment says.
Google reviews of Thomas’ now permanently closed business show a few negative reviews, including from one individual who wrote that he’d stolen more than $5,000 from them. Other reviews reference the federal charges against him.
Another individual wrote that Thomas’ business “does not answer or return phone calls once they have your money.”
The FBI and the Florida Department of Financial Services jointly investigated the case against Thomas, according to the release.
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