November 29, 2017

Girard

Girard

KEY LARGO — An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services has led to the arrest of a local insurance agent on fraud charges.

The state alleges that Richard Girard, 38, owner of A-Rated Insurance Group in Key Largo, submitted a phony roof inspection to Citizens Property Insurance by forging an inspector’s signature. The state claims he concealed the actual age of the roof to get coverage and then collected a commission in excess of $1,500.

It was cropped photos of roof damage that first aroused suspicion in a Citizens investigator, according to the arrest affidavit.

Girard allegedly reused photos taken of the roof in 2011 that were previously submitted in a wind mitigation inspection report, “except the dates stamped on the original photos were cropped on the photos submitted with the new roof inspection report,” the affidavit states. “And, that in doing so, he concealed the actual age of the roof.”

Girard now faces felony charges of insurance fraud, grand theft, altering public records and uttering a false instrument. Each charge carries a potential five-year sentence.

“He’s been arrested on probable cause, and once he’s formally charged by the state attorney, it’s in their hands,” said Jon Moore, press secretary of the Office of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. 

“Insurance fraud schemes can come in various different shapes and sizes and at times, can be extremely difficult to identify,” Patronis said. “I applaud the combined, relentless efforts of the various investigative agencies who work alongside the Department of Financial Services, day in and day out, to bring this type of activity to an end.”

The affidavit accuses Girard of forging the signature of a licensed inspector, whom he later called and told what he had done. He admitted that it was a “bad judgment” call on his part using photos taken five years ago by a different inspector, according to the affidavit.

Citizens accepted the application for the home that would have otherwise been denied if the age of the roof hadn’t been concealed.

“Agents writing policies for Citizens are engaged in a public trust,” said Joe Theobald, Citizens’ director of claims. “When they mislead Citizens or their consumers by committing fraud, they harm our ability to provide coverage for those who cannot obtain insurance in the private market.”

Once formal charges have been filed by the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, the department’s Division of Insurance Agents and Agency Services will immediately suspend Girard’s insurance license, according to Moore.

That, however, will not leave A-Rated’s customers in the lurch.

“Citizens will continue to insure its policy holders,” said Michael Peltier, a spokesman for Citizens. “The bottom line is that policy holders will be taken care of, and at any time, they may change insurance agents, and we will be with them throughout.

“If there are any non-renewals, then Citizens will issue a letter to them with at least 160 days of notice, which should allow them plenty of time to find another insurance provider,” he added. “This is hypothetical, because we still don’t know what’s going to happen right now.”

Girard has bonded out of jail.

tjava@keysnews.com