Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Scammed seniors will be repaid more than $1 million

Retirees who lost more than $1 million to an unscrupulous insurance agent will be repaid, under an agreement reached between the insurance company and state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.


Bankers Life and Casualty, one of the companies that the independent agent worked for, has agreed to replace the money allegedly stolen by the agent.

An investigation by Kreidler’s office found that several of Jasmine Jamrus-Kassim’s clients repeatedly cashed out large portions of their annuities with Banker’s Life and Casualty from late 2007 to late 2009. The money was then pocketed by Kassim.

Jamrus-Kassim, of Kent, was arrested in March 2011 and charged with 21 counts of first-degree theft. Her trial is pending in King County Superior Court.

“I commend Bankers Life for stepping up and making these victims whole, to the extent possible,” said Kreidler. “I’m deeply saddened that one victim, stripped of his life’s savings, has already passed away. In his case, restitution will go to his estate.”

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

In reality, 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 Kassim’s personal credit union account. 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.

The victims live in Bellevue, Renton and Seattle. The payment amounts are:

• $512,112

• $488,071

• $116,070

• $65,321

• And $929

Bankers has also agreed to pay interest.

Class-action settlement covers hundreds of thousands of insurance customers

Hundreds of thousands of people who were led to expect more interest than they got from annuities are eligible for a multi-million dollar class-action settlement – if they sign up on time.

“Consumers across the country were misled, and I’m very glad to see this case finally resolved with restitution,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “I urge anyone who qualifies to sign up for their share of the settlement.”

The settlement involves Northern Life Insurance Company’s marketing of tax-sheltered fixed annuities, primarily to teachers, starting in 1995. (The company, which was based in Seattle, merged with Minnesota-based Reliastar Life Insurance Co. in 2002.)

The annuity documents, Kreidler said, misrepresented to consumers the way that interest would be calculated over the life of the annuities. Instead, Northern Life paid a high interest rate only in the first year of the contract, reducing the rate during all the remaining years.

Under the settlement, Northern Life has agreed to pay $29 to $40 for each $10,000 in value of a person’s annuity. The settlement provides up to $31 million for the payments. A King County Superior Court judge recently approved the mediated settlement, in which Northern Life did not admit wrongdoing.

Northern Life has notified 406,000 account holders that they are potentially affected by the settlement. An estimated 20,000 of those people are in Washington state.

“People are naturally skeptical of mailings,” said Kreidler, “but don’t just toss this one in the trash.”
The one-page claim form, also available at http://www.curtissettlement.com/, must be mailed back on or before Oct. 17, 2011. (It can also be scanned and emailed by that date.) Under penalty of perjury, signers must certify that they owned a fixed annuity issued by Northern Life sometime between Jan. 1, 1995 and the present time.

Typical payments are likely to range from $60 to $80, although some will be significantly larger.
The claimants were represented by private attorneys in the 10-year court case, which involved more than 1 million pages of documents.

Kreidler’s office investigated the issue and filed an amicus brief in the case, saying that consumers had been substantially harmed by misleading marketing.