Looks as if the unlicensed insurance scandal — that’s right, the one that got me sued for defamation earlier this year — isn’t over yet.
Remember Revelex, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based online booking company whose name came up a time or two during the Palm
Florida’s campaign to stop unlicensed travel insurance appears to be at a crossroads. State regulators yesterday sent a two-count notice
I wanted to take a moment to say “thank you” for the support I’ve gotten from lawyers in the blogosphere after being hit with a frivolous defamation lawsuit from a Florida travel agency earlier this year.
Florida regulators today filed a revised notice of intent to issue a cease and desist order against Legendary Journeys, a Sarasota, Fla., travel agency, as part of its investigation into Prime Travel Protection. It appears to be the state’s biggest action against a single company, with 17 counts and half a million dollars in outstanding claims, according to a government report.
A fresh round of public records released by the state of Florida’s Department of Financial Service this morning reveals a “medal count” of complaints against travel agencies alleged to have sold illegal travel insurance, as well as the number of claims and their estimated value.
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.
As I reported last week, Palm Coast Travel and its companies, including Smartcruiser.com, are headed to a hearing with a Florida administrative law judge to determine if it sold unlicensed travel insurance. This is an important story, because fake “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.
Only a few weeks ago, Palm Coast Travel, one of three large travel agencies the state of Florida last year alleged had sold unlicensed insurance, seemed to have everything going for it. The state’s investigation into its activities appeared to have hit a dead end. The company, which runs the site Smartcruiser.com, had sued one of its customers and me in an effort to silence its critics. And it was issuing an average of one press release a week, touting its Better Business Bureau rating and obsession with customer service. But late last week, in an unexpected twist, Florida regulators filed an amended notice of intent to issue a cease and desist order with more detailed charges against Lake Worth, Fla.-based Smolinski and Associates, Inc., which, in addition to doing business as Palm Coast Travel and Smartcruiser.com, also operates under the name Smart Travel Group, Smart Cruiser Holdings and Tripsmart. Any way you read the latest allegations, it’s clear that Florida’s Department of Financial Services has no intention of letting this case fade away. (Here’s the first notice, for comparison purposes.)
Here we go again.
Remember the Prime Travel Protection scandal? You know, the one involving fraudulent insurance policies, scores of denied claims and an investigation by state regulators?
Remember Prime Travel protection, the Colorado travel insurance company that shut down amid allegations it sold unlicensed policies? Turns out it’s not dead yet.
Colorado has issued a cease and desist order again Prime Travel Protection, the bankrupt travel insurance company based in Arvada, Colo. The move caps an extensive investigation by the state and comes on the heels of a similar action by Florida.
George Fredrickson never suspected the travel insurance he bought for his transatlantic cruise last year was fake. But it was. Here are six questions to ask if you don’t want the same thing to happen to you.
What do the recent intents to file cease and desist orders by Florida against three travel agencies — Vacation Superstore, Legendary Journeys and Palm Coast Travel — mean for travelers? I asked Barry Resnick, who has become something of an expert on the sale of unauthorized travel protection insurance plans. Resnick’s mother held a policy with Trip Assured, a Tennessee company that sold unauthorized trip protection plans, and I featured his comments in my MSNBC column last week.
The state of Florida notified three large travel agencies earlier this week that insurance offered by Prime Travel Protection might be illegal. What does its actions mean for agencies and their customers, particularly those with policies underwritten by Prime Travel Protection and other companies owned by Jerry Watson? For an insider’s view, I turned to Al Ferguson, a vice president at Legendary Journeys, one of the agencies named in the orders.
Florida has warned three travel agencies that sold insurance policies offered by bankrupt Prime Travel Protection Services of Arvada, Colo., that its activities may run afoul of state statues. State authorities on March 5 issued an intent to order a cease and desist against Port St. Lucie, Fla.-based Vacation Superstore, which operates Best Price Cruises; Sarasota, Fla.-based Legendary Journeys and Lake Worth, Fla.-based Palm Coast Travel, which owns the site Smartcruiser.com.
We’ve already heard from Prime Travel Protection’s customers and from the agents who sold its policies. But other than a form letter from its trustee, the company and its president, Jerry Watson, have remained silent. Until now.
Authorities in two states appear poised to take enforcement action against Prime Travel Protection and travel agents who sold its policies. “There’s an ongoing investigation,” says Chris Lines, a legislative liaison for Colorado’s regulatory agencies. “We expect it will come to a head in a matter of weeks.”
A trustee for bankrupt Prime Travel Protection, which sold what Florida investigators say was illegal insurance through a network of travel agencies, has promised to pay claims “to the greatest possible” over a three-year period.
Kay Schroll says she lost $6,820 — the price of two cruises — when she bought travel insurance through Legendary Journeys, but then had to cancel her vacations for health reasons. Her case is just one of many that have landed on my desk since the bankruptcy of Prime Travel Protection, the Colorado company that offered these unlicensed policies.
Florida’s Department of Financial Services has confirmed it is investigating travel agencies that sold insurance underwritten by Prime Travel Protection, a Colorado company that filed for bankruptcy protection last month and left thousands of travelers uninsured.
Virginia Hamlin is upset. A year ago she booked a Panama Canal through Legendary Journeys, a travel agency based in Sarasota, Fla. At the time she was offered a $177 “travel insurance” policy through Travel Protection Services.