Insurance agent Brenda Cervantes, 31, of Oxnard, Calif., and unlicensed employee Edith Arellano-Quinones, 39, of Ojai, were arraigned on Tuesday on misdemeanor counts of insurance fraud after allegedly selling auto insurance without proper licensing and putting their customers’ coverage and information at risk.

Investigators from the California Department of Insurance reportedly conducted undercover visits to a number of Victoria’s Auto Insurance Services in Ventura County to obtain quotes for insurance services.

Investigator visits, along with interviews with employees and customers, reportedly revealed Arellano-Quinones was operating and supervising a branch of Victoria’s Auto Insurance Services in Oxnard without being properly licensed as an insurance agent. Arellano-Quinones was previously licensed by the CDI, but surrendered her license in 2008.

Arellano-Quinones allegedly illegally used login credentials from various insurance companies provided by Cervantes, a licensed insurance agent who also worked for Victoria’s Auto Insurance Services. Cervantes provided these login credentials to several employees who were not licensed to provide quotes to customers, according to CDI investigators.

The investigation also determined Arellano-Quinones was knowingly, and at the direction of Cervantes, providing insurance advice and recommendations without a license.

Cervantes and Arellano-Quinones pleaded not guilty and will return to court on Nov. 2. The CDI is taking action against Cervantes’ license. The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case.

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Despite the warnings, the federal government largely left it to states to detect which applications are fake. But state workforce agencies, stymied by decades-old IT systems and flooded with applications, have been ill-equipped to find and prevent the fraud, which appears to be far more extensive than the usual attempts to bilk government programs. Now states are asking for help.

“We’re fighting this fight with ’70s era technology with some modern Band-Aids put on top of it,” Ryan Wright, Kansas’ acting secretary of Labor, said in an interview. “I would like to have seen a more aggressive response from the federal government.”

Last year, Wright said, his agency had no cases of impostors using fake employers to apply for benefits; in recent months, it has stopped 55,000 such claims. The fraud “now is reaching a scope that is difficult for states to weed through,” he said.

Labor Department Communications Director Megan Sweeney told POLITICO in a statement that the agency “is actively working with all states to combat fraud in UI programs,” especially in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which expanded jobless benefits to the self-employed. “The Department requires states to work with the Department’s Office of the Inspector General and to work collaboratively with other federal, state, and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute fraud and to work closely with financial institutions to recover fraudulent payments,” Sweeney added.

State officials are seeing big surges in unemployment applications indicating that criminals are trying to game the system. And while they have been successful at blocking some of the theft attempts, the sheer scale is making it difficult to stop entirely.

Colorado officials estimated that three-quarters of unemployment applications they received over the summer were fraudulent, and they reported averting as much as $1 billion in attempted thefts. But criminals still may

Joseph Falcone, 60, formerly operated the 3G’s VINO LLC, a wine and liquor distributor based in Bethpage and Farmingdale, New York. Among other products, 3G’s distributed a single-serving wine in a sealed glass, which had previously been featured on an episode of the reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” according to a federal information.

Between September 2014 and November 2015, Falcone solicited investments and promised potential investors that their money would be used to fund 3G’s by purchasing the single-serving wine product, according to prosecutors.

Instead, Falcone used about $527,000 of those investments for his personal benefit, including to pay off the mortgage on a Florida residence and to fund his online securities trading, according to prosecutors.

“Falcone’s victims were reeled in by his ‘Shark Tank’ pitch, but with today’s sentence, the defendant is now squarely on the hook for his crimes,” said Seth D. DuCharme, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “This Office remains committed to prosecuting those who mislead the public and abuse the trust placed in them to engage in fraud against their own investors.”

Shark Tank host loses $400,000 in a scam

Falcone pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in June 2019. He was also ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution to seven 3G’s investors.

In a sentencing memorandum, Falcone wrote a letter to the judge admitting to the fraud and apologizing for using business funds for his personal use.

“I took investors’ money for the purpose of investing it into a start up wine business. Then, I wound up co-mingling funds with personal funds, and using some of the investors’ money for my own ends. As the business grew, so did the expenses, and I wound up not being able to pay all of the investors back,” he wrote.

“I was wrong to do this. For this,

It’s happened to nearly everyone: Our credit or debit card is lost or stolen, and then we find fraudulent charges on our account. And the Covid crisis has unfortunately made fraud even more common. But the theft of your card or bank information doesn’t mean you’re on the hook for all the losses. On the contrary, in the vast majority of cases, you’re entitled to a refund of almost all fraudulent charges. Here are the basic steps you should understand to get as much of your money back as possible.



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Credit or Debit?

Whether to pay with debit or credit is an age-old question that depends upon multiple factors. Generally speaking, if you have good credit management skills and pay-off your cards on time every month, you should pay with credit as often as possible, in order to enjoy cash back, points and other rewards. From a safety perespective, however, this can expose you to more instances of identity theft, since many credit card purchases are online, or in public shopping areas, where such theft is more common.

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On the other hand, debit is best used when you have credit management challenges, for bill pay (where credit is not an option),  or other automatic payments withdrawn from your checking account. Using debit to make online purchases exposes you to many of the same risks as credit. However, for in-person purchases, debit may be somewhat safer, since PIN numbers are usually required, adding an extra layer of protection.

The caveat, though, is that if your debit card information is successfully stolen and used, you may expose your entire banking relationship – including potential access to other accounts you may have with your bank.

In either case, the absolute first step you should take if your

A Superior Court judge wants to know why a prosecutor presented “misinformation” to a grand jury, which ultimately indicted an Elizabeth cop on insurance fraud charges about three years ago after she filed suit against her police department.

Union County prosecutors alleged that Alana Velazquez, who became a cop in 2010, used her supplemental AFLAC insurance to receive $8,600 for an on-duty injury, but the policy did not cover on-the-job-injuries. She was charged in 2017 with insurance fraud, theft by deception, and three counts of uttering a forged document — about a year after she filed suit claiming racial discrimination.

Her attorney, Joshua McMahon, asked Friday to have the indictment dismissed because he claimed Union County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Rosenthal did not explain to the grand jury that her policy could’ve covered on-the-job injuries. Rosenthal was unsure if he redacted the policy numbers when he presented evidence to the grand jury too.

Rosenthal said he didn’t realize Velazquez initially filed her claim with a policy that could’ve provided coverage for on-the-job injuries until McMahon pointed it out almost three years later. He used words like “inadvertently” in court filings that were read aloud in response to McMahon’s claims.

“But inadvertently, apparently, doesn’t apply to my Black female police officer here,” McMahon said. “I just wanted to point out that juxtaposition.”

Grand jury proceedings are generally conducted privately with a prosecutor as a stop-gap to make sure a person was rightfully charged with a crime before it proceeds to trial.

Rosenthal, meanwhile, said it ultimately did not matter if that information was presented to a grand jury. Although her policy gave the option for customers to have their coverage apply to on or off-duty injuries, she did not check the boxes saying she wanted coverage for both. Coverage for both on