Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WA insurance agent arrested in alleged $1 million theft

Investigators from the Washington state insurance commissioner’s office on Tuesday arrested a King County woman on suspicion of stealing more than $1 million in retirement funds from five elderly insurance clients.

Jasmine Jamrus-Kassim, of Kent, was arrested in Factoria by members of the insurance commissioner’s Special Investigations Unit and the Washington State Patrol. She was booked into the King County Jail on 21 counts of first-degree theft.

“This is an appalling abuse of trust,” said state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Vulnerable people trusted this agent with much of their life’s savings. And she just pocketed the money.”

A months-long investigation by Kreidler’s office found that several of Jamrus-Kassim’s clients repeatedly cashed out large portions of their annuities with Bankers Life and Casualty. Jamrus-Kassim was an agent for the insurer.

“We want to see justice done,” said Kreidler. “We also want to see if there’s any way to make these victims whole. We’re still investigating to what extent Bankers Life may have any liability for the actions of their agent.”

The victims, who ranged from age 74 to 90, typically made out their checks to “S.A. Saad” and gave them to Jamrus-Kassim. Several said they believed that S.A. Saad was an insurance company official. They thought their money was being reinvested.

In reality, Jamrus-Kassim has two daughters, both with the initials and surname “S.A. Saad.” Most of the money was deposited briefly in the girls’ accounts, then moved to Jamrus-Kassim’s personal credit union account. Jamrus-Kassim’s financial records show thousands of dollars spent on clothes, jewelry, and a trip to Mexico. They also show large payments to online psychic advisors, including $20,000 in charges from one psychic website in one month.

In total, Jamrus-Kassim is believed to have stolen at least $1,052,088 from the five victims between late 2007 and late 2009. She returned $25,503 to a 90-year-old Renton woman after the woman complained to the insurance commissioner’s office. That’s one of two complaints that triggered the state investigation.

Jamrus-Kassim submitted a letter of resignation to Bankers Life on Jan. 13, 2010.

Subsequent investigation by state insurance officials found three other victims. Last week, investigators interviewed an 83-year-old Seattle man who had no idea that Jamrus-Kassim had taken his $352,000.

Want a health plan for your kids? Enrollment starts today

If you're looking to add your children to your own individual health plan or want to buy health insurance for your children, you have from today through April 30 to do so.

Be sure to apply early. In most cases, applications received after March 20 will not have coverage until May 1.

This is the first of two open-enrollment periods this year for children in the individual health insurance market -- the second is from Sept. 15-Oct. 31. During these times, health plans cannot screen children or deny them coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Federal health care reform prevents health insurers from deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical condition. However, individual plans -- like most employer-sponsored health plans -- can create open-enrollment periods.

If you need a health plan outside of the enrollment dates, you can apply either to the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP), or if you qualify, to the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP-WA).

Exceptions where you can apply for individual coverage anytime include the birth or adoption of a child or if a child or parent:
No longer qualifies for a state program.
  • Loses coverage due to a divorce.
  • Loses employer-sponsored coverage (including COBRA).
  • Moves and their plan is not available where they live now.
In 2014, when the full federal health reforms take effect, no one of any age can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.