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Insurance broker charged with defrauding insurance companies, investors out of $1M

STAFF REPORTS


ROCHESTER, N.Y.- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Brian Bartz, 38, of Rochester, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who is handling the case, stated that over the past five years, the defendant has been employed as an insurance broker by several different life insurance companies including: the Benjamin Hollamby Agency, which sold life insurance policies on behalf of Nationwide Life Insurance Company; the Banker's Conseco Life Insurance Company; Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company; and the Lavoro Group via Mass Mutual, located in Rochester. The general practice of these companies was to offer monetary commissions and/or bonuses to their agents when agents sold life insurance policies.

According to the complaint, Bartz would submit false applications for life insurance policies to the insurance companies on behalf of individuals who were not aware of these applications. The applications included individuals' means of identification without their knowledge or consent. In order to avoid detection, the defendant used various victims' bank accounts to pay the premiums for the unauthorized policies. Between 2015 and 2020, Bartz defrauded or attempted to defraud a number of life insurance companies and dozens of investors out of more than $950,000.

The complaint further states that some of the defendant’s conduct was discovered after his departure from the insurance companies. For instance, after he left the Benjamin Hollamby Agency in February 2018, Nationwide conducted an annual audit, which revealed that a disproportionately large number of life insurance policies sold by Bartz had lapsed due to policy holders failing to pay the required premiums. As a result, Nationwide performed an internal investigation and determined that many of the lapsed policy holders had never given the defendant authorization to apply for a policy on their behalf.

In October 2019, investigators executed a search warrant on the contents of the defendant’s personal email, which he used to effectuate his scheme. That review revealed that, on multiple occasions, Bartz received emails from Nationwide that were addressed to and intended for prospective policy holders but were sent directly to the defendant’s email address. The emails contained a link to a website application that prospective policy holders were supposed to complete, electronically sign, and submit to Nationwide. These emails were sent shortly before Nationwide received completed applications for these individuals. Investigators believe that the defendant completed the applications and submitted them without the victims' knowledge or consent. In total, Bartz fraudulently submitted approximately 150 policy applications on behalf of approximately 120 individuals to Nationwide and, as a result, Nationwide paid out approximately $250,000 in commissions and bonuses that it otherwise would not have paid.

The defendant continued to engage in this scheme of submitting false life insurance policy applications, collecting commissions for the sale of those policies, and using victim bank accounts to pay the policy premiums after he left the Benjamin Hollamby Agency and Nationwide:

• At Banker's Conseco, Bartz allegedly fraudulently submitted approximately 29 policy applications on behalf of approximately 22 individuals, attempting fraudulently to obtain approximately$70,000 in commissions and bonuses. Banker's Conseco discovered the fraudulent scheme in time to avoid making the payments.
• At Mass Mutual, the defendant fraudulently submitted approximately 138 policy applications on behalf of approximately 10 individuals, attempting fraudulently to obtain approximately $110,000 in commissions and bonuses. However, Mass Mutual discovered the fraudulent scheme in time to avoid making the payments.

In addition to defrauding insurance companies, Bartz attempted to defraud individual victims through a fraud scheme commonly known as a Ponzi scheme. The defendant targeted individuals that he either already had years-long relationships with as their life insurance agent or who were referred to Bartz as a trusted life insurance/investment agent. While working at the life insurance companies, the defendant began to persuade individuals to make premium payments to him directly instead of to the life insurance company with which they had or believed they had a policy. In addition, Bartz represented himself as an investment advisor and convinced victims to invest their money in investment funds that he controlled, which, in fact, did not exist. To avoid being detected, the defendant used a small portion of incoming new investor monies to make promised payments to earlier investors. Bartz is accused of defrauding individual investors out of approximately $530,000.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Guyton.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.  

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