Insurance agent scams couple out of nearly $200,000

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tens of thousands of dollars gone and trust betrayed. That was the fate of an unsuspecting couple who turned to their insurance agent for investment advice.

"I treated him almost like a son, to tell you the truth, put all my trust in him," said James Atkinson, a fraud victim.

That trust was betrayed by James and Barbara Atkinson's insurance agent, who ended up scamming the couple out of almost $200,000. After gaining their trust, the insurance broker began luring the Atkinsons into what he called investing "opportunities."

"He said he could put us in a program where I couldn't lose no money. If it don't make nothing, I don't lose nothing," said Atkinson.

The Atkinsons agreed to give him $50,000 and signed several papers. That paperwork gave the insurance agent direct access to their accounts.

Each month, the couple would receive checks they were told were dividends. The truth was those checks were withdrawals from their own annuities.

"He told them that in order for this to continue we have to keep reinvesting, so just take a portion of your earnings and reinvest it," said U.S. Postal Inspector Keith Moore. "And that is what they believed in, so they kept writing more and more checks to him, which you know were basically going nowhere except in his pocket."

While the Atkinsons thought they were making money, they were actually being victimized.

"This person who was the agent did not follow the procedures correctly and then decided to steal as much money as he could before he got caught," said Moore.

Postal inspectors say the biggest takeaway from this story is that all investors need to demand monthly statements showing each financial transaction.
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