Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount stolen in premiums as more than $10,000. The correct amount is more than $100,000. Amended April 13, 2015, 11 a.m.
A former spokesperson for the First AME Church pleaded not guilty Friday to felony charges of grand theft and financial elder abuse for allegedly scamming seniors, many of whom were members of the South Los Angeles congregation.
Constance Gail Fortune, 61, is accused of selling homeowners, auto and life insurance policies, never actually purchasing the policies, and stealing more than $100,000 in premiums from her customers, according to the state Department of Insurance.
Fortune’s alleged illegal activities occurred over a two-year period, while she was a licensed agent, and left consumers with no coverage and at considerable financial risk, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.
“Fortune’s alleged criminal enterprise is reprehensible,” Jones said. “Fortune violated her fiduciary responsibility when she used her position as a licensed agent and trusted member of the Los Angeles community to take advantage of seniors.”
Fortune, an employee and trustee for First AME, hosted meetings and met with fellow church members and others to market insurance products, Jones said.
As part of the alleged scheme, she fabricated bogus insurance documents on official insurance company letterhead in an effort to give consumers the appearance that the policies were legitimate, according to Jones.
Fortune allegedly used the policy payments to pay for personal expenses, including a lease for her office and rent for her apartment, state insurance officials said.
The Department of Insurance is encouraging anyone who purchased a policy from Fortune to contact CDI Detective Virgil De Los Santos at (323) 278-5000.
Fortune’s insurance license has been inactive since January 30, 2013, Jones said.
Her next court date is set for May 4. Fortune faces up to five years in state prison if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.
— City News Service
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