Boat insurer arrested, fraud warning issued

MINNEAPOLIS and OAK PARK, Ill. – A Florida boat insurer has been arrested for allegedly stealing more than $845,000 in insurance premiums he received from boat owners, reported in a story yesterday.

John Paul Castagna, 46, the owner of Castagna Specialty Risk, with offices in Deerfield Beach, Fla., was apprehended by the Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud.

An investigation determined that, from November 2001 through April 2004, Castagna engaged in an ongoing scheme wherein he accepted insurance premiums for marine insurance from insurance agents and did not forward the premiums to the insurance companies, according to the story.

In each of the 17 instances, detectives said, Castagna received the insurance premiums from the agents and deposited the funds into his bank account. The charges against Castagna are based on local victims, including customers, insurance companies, insurance agents and finance companies.

According to Tom Gallagher, Florida’s CFO, Castagna could face up to 180 years in prison. He was booked into the Broward County Jail on charges of misappropriation of insurance premium, two counts of grand theft in the first degree, four counts of grand theft in the second degree, and six counts of grand theft in the third degree. Bond was set at $48,500.

The Broward County State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the charges.

MRAA alert

The Florida case comes on the heels of an alert issued last Friday by the Marine Retailers Association of America, warning against what it said was fraudulent marine insurance being offered by a company called North American Marine & General Insurance.

MRAA said the company is soliciting business in various states across the country offering insurance under the guise of the Water Safety Foundation or the International Water Safety Foundation. Most solicitations appear to be in the form of a fax from IWSF.

“Please be aware that this is a fraudulent carrier and is not approved for use in any state in the U.S.,” MRAA said. “Several insurance departments have already issued cease and desist orders against this company. MRAA members should be aware of this information and act carefully before purchasing insurance for an organization with which it is unfamiliar.”

MRAA advised anyone receiving a fax from IWSF or the company North American Marine & General Insurance, to contact their state’s Department of Insurance.

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