Florida accuses three more travel agencies — wait, make that five more agencies — of selling unlicensed insurance

By | February 22nd, 2010

Looks like Palm Coast Travel has company. Florida regulators have filed charges against three more travel agencies as part of their expanding probe of unlicensed insurance offered through defunct Prime Travel Protection. (Two more agencies were added to the list at the end of today; see update at the end of this post.)

Ahoy Cruises of Jacksonville, Fla., JB Travel of Boynton Beach, Fla., and St. Lucie West Travel of Port St. Lucie, Fla., are accused by the state’s Department of Financial Services of violating several insurance-related statues — or, put differently, of selling fake travel insurance.

This is an important story, because bogus “trip protection” policies are known to have been sold to people across the country for years, potentially costing travelers millions of dollars in lost vacations.

Here are the orders against Ahoy Cruises (PDF), JB Travel (PDF) and St. Lucie West (PDF).

Like Palm Coast Travel, which does business online as Smartcruiser.com, the agencies have the option of either not disputing the state’s findings, which could result in sanctions and a suspension of their licenses, or of contesting Florida’s findings in and administrative hearing.

Palm Coast Travel is contesting Florida’s allegations. A hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled for April 8. Here’s the docket.

(Palm Coast Travel is suing me in an apparent attempt to stop me from writing about the company. Perhaps these agencies would care to join the suit?)

The state says Ahoy Cruises sold one of its customers — described as “M.G.” — a cruise with fake insurance in November, 2007.

Subsequent to the purchase, M.G, had to cancel her trip due to medical reasons. A travel insurance claim was filed, which has not been resolved,

Neither Prime Travel Protection, Inc., nor its related entities have ever held a license or Certificate of Authority to transact insurance in Florida.

You, AHOY CRUISES, directly or indirectly acted as agent for or otherwise represented or aided one or more unauthorized insurers, including but not limited to Prime Travel Protection, Inc.

Florida regulators also allege JB Travel, which also does business online as JBcruises.com, sold a customer named S.R. 16 travel packages, which included “travel insurance” for him and his family.

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The aforementioned transactions of insurance were handled by one or more travel consultants for JB TRAVEL, who were not licensed as travel insurance agents at the time.

Pedro Oliveira was of the unlicensed travel agents. At the time, Mr. Oliveira was not licensed or
appointed as a (2-41) travel insurance agent.

Subsequent to the purchase, the two or more of S.R.’s family had to cancel their trips due to medical reasons. Travel insurance claims were filed, which have not been paid.

Prime Travel Protection, Inc. has never held a license or Certificate of Authority to transact insurance in Florida.

The state contends JB Travel “directly or indirectly” acted as agent for or otherwise represented or aided one or more unauthorized insurers, including but not limited to Prime Travel Protection.

Florida regulators also claim St. Lucie West Travel sold Prime Travel Protection to several customers. In one count, it alleges the agency sold Prime Travel Protection to two individuals, “V.” and “J.B.”

Subsequent to the purchase, V. and J.B. had to cancel their trip due to medical
reasons. A travel insurance claim was filed, which has not been resolved.

Neither Prime Travel Protection, Inc., nor its related entities have ever held a license or Certificate of Authority to transact insurance in Florida.

You, ST. LUCIE WEST TRAVEL, directly or indirectly acted as agent for or otherwise represented or aided one or more unauthorized insurers, including but not limited to Prime Travel Protection, Inc.

(A second count, involving “D.” and “MJ.C.” levels similar charges against St. Lucie West.)

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These differ from the allegations made against Palm Coast Travel in one important respect: None of them contend a customer purchased a legitimate insurance policy that was swapped out for a fake one. (Florida alleges that at least two Palm Coast customers were sold Access America policies, but that the policies were eventually moved to Prime Travel Protection — an action that, if true, would carry a series of harsher penalties.)

More notices are expected to be filed by Florida regulators, perhaps as soon as this week.

Update (6:30 p.m.): That was fast!. DFS just filed charges against two more agencies — a two-count notice against Four Seasons Tours and Cruises in Largo, Fla. (PDF) and a seven-count notice against Diana’s Travel South of Spring Hill, Fla. (PDF).

What can I say? Maybe a new photo is in order.

Update (7:30): Here’s a straggler, against Sandra Demore of Port Orange, Fla. (PDF). Now it’s a party.

It’s getting crowded in there.

(Photo: Crowdive and volvidejapon/Flickr Creative Commons)



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