CFO Sink: Sentencing of Tampa Senior Scammer is More Evidence that Stronger Legislation is Needed
Safeguard Our Seniors legislation would crack down on predatory agents
TALLAHASSEE - Florida CFO Alex Sink today reiterated her call for tougher senior investor fraud laws, following a guilty plea last week by a Tampa Bay area scammer who stole a 71-year-old's life savings after convincing her to invest them in an inappropriate financial product. The case underscores the need for CFO Sink's "Safeguard Our Seniors" legislation, which would provide senior investors with better disclosures and protections.
Moctar "Justin" Ndiaye, 36, of Tampa, was convicted on charges of Organized Fraud, Grand Theft and Theft from Persons 65 Years of Age or Older, after CFO Sink's Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) arrested him on March 9, 2009. Ndiaye took the victim's life savings to invest in an annuity by falsely leading her to believe that her investment would be government-insured and would pay back 30-50 percent with no penalty for early withdrawal. At the time of the sale, Ndiaye no longer worked for the insurance company, Mutual of Omaha.
"This case is another disturbing example of why we need to create tougher penalties against unscrupulous agents and provide better protections for Florida's seniors,' said CFO Sink. "My department continues to hear from seniors who are taken advantage of, and it's high time the legislature agrees with me that we need to do something about it."
Ndiaye was sentenced to 10 years probation with 100 hours of community service. His insurance license was revoked on August 24, 2009, by the Department's Division of Agent and Agency Services, and Ndiaye is permanently banned from ever working in the insurance industry again. He was also ordered to pay $23,000 in restitution to two victims and $5,500 in investigative expenses to the Department of Insurance Fraud.
The department's investigation began when the victim contacted them with concern about the financial transactions she made with Ndiaye involving $20,000, the victim's entire savings. After contacting Mutual of Omaha to find out about her investments, the victim became very alarmed when the insurance company told her there were no investment policies that existed under her name and that she did not have any accounts with them. The insurance company further advised that Ndiaye no longer worked as a representative of their company since being removed in February 2008.
While working with DIF detectives, the victim maintained contact
with Ndiaye who frequently called the victim to persuade her to invest in more
annuities. With assistance from the victim, DIF detectives made a controlled
call to Ndiaye. The information provided to the victim during the phone
conversation gave detectives enough evidence to seek an arrest warrant. With
assistance from Assistant State Attorney Rhonda King, a second undercover
operation was conducted at the victim's home where Ndiaye came to pay her a
visit. On March 9, 2009, when Ndiaye left the victim's home, he was immediately
arrested and taken into custody by DIF detectives.
After the arrest, DIF detectives obtained a search warrant for Ndiaye's residence and home office in Tampa. As a result of the search on March 13, 2009, another victim was identified and Ndiaye was arrested a second time at his residence upon the completion of the search warrant.
For the third year in a row, CFO Sink has proposed Safeguard Our Seniors legislation to strengthen senior investor fraud laws. Senator Mike Bennett and Representative Maria Sachs have sponsored the 2010 legislation (SB 844), which comes after another 277 complaints from seniors about annuity fraud just in the last year. During the 2009 session, CFO Sink's Safeguard Our Seniors legislation passed the Florida Senate unanimously, but was not heard in a House Committee. This year's legislation has already passed its first Senate committee.
In the last two years, CFO Sink's Department of Financial Services has held nearly 400 "Safeguard Our Seniors" workshops throughout the state, including 11 in one week this month as part of a statewide Safeguard Our Seniors blitz, designed to draw attention to the need for this important legislation.
To learn more about the Safeguard Our Seniors Task Force or what to consider when purchasing annuities, visit www.FLSeniors.net. Floridians who believe they may have been the victim of annuity or financial fraud should call 1-877-My-FL-CFO or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com to file a complaint.