The Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) ordered New Orleans insurance agent Vilia Ann Ragas and her agency, Citywide Insurance Agency Inc., to stop their insurance business after Ragas failed to remit premiums she collected from clients.
On Dec. 3, LDI fraud investigators served cease and desist orders to Ragas and her agency, suspended their licenses, and issued them $5,000 in fines ($2,500 each) for violating the Louisiana Insurance Code. The license suspensions will become revocations in 30 days.
This is not the first time Ragas was sanctioned by the LDI. In 2006, Ragas and Citywide Insurance were issued cease and desist orders and summary suspensions for failing to remit premiums they had collected from clients. As a result, Ragas and Citywide Insurance paid fines of $2,000 each and lost their licenses for six months. Ragas has been a licensed agent since 1989.
The current cases involve multiple instances of collecting money from clients and failing to purchase the insurance. In one case, Ragas issued a fake certificate of insurance from a company that wasn’t even writing policies in the area at the time.
One Citywide Insurance customer discovered that she had no insurance coverage for most of 2021 after filing a complaint about Ragas with the LDI in November. Another customer learned that her homeowners insurance had been canceled for non-payment of premium when she tried to file a claim for damage from Hurricane Ida.
As described in the C&D order, the first case goes back to Jan. 10, 2020, when Ragas represented J. Doyle by completing an Acord commercial general liability application. On Jan. 21, 2020, both Ragas and Doyle signed the commercial insurance application and an Evanston Insurance Company dwelling supplemental application. Ragas obtained a general liability policy with Evanston for Doyle. The total annual premium was $325, and on that same day, Doyle wrote Citywide a check for $3,373.82 for homeowners insurance.
On March 12, 2020, Doyle received a cancellation notice from Lloyd’s of London through Hull and Company pertaining to her insurance policy. Doyle told LDI that she requested a declaration page for her 2020 insurance policy, and Ragas failed to provide one. In November 2021, after Doyle filed a complaint with the LDI, Ragas mailed to Doyle a copy of the declaration page from the canceled Lloyd’s policy, showing an annual premium of $2,675.77 and that Doyle was insured from Jan. 21, 2020, to Jan. 21, 2021.
On Feb. 12, 2021, Ragas and Doyle signed an Acord application for homeowner’s insurance. Ragas listed a Lloyd’s policy number when asked for prior coverage information. At that time, Doyle wrote Citywide a check for $4,445 for property insurance. That same date, Ragas issued a fraudulent certificate of insurance for Doyle’s property showing it was insured by Maison Insurance Company. The hitch was that Maison was not writing new business at the time the certificate was issued. Furthermore, Maison contends that it did not receive an application or any payment for coverage.
In the final analysis, Ragas failed to account for $278 of premium Citywide received from Doyle, and Ragas incurred $195 in unnecessary application fees on Doyle’s behalf. Doyle was unaware that her property was uninsured during most of 2021, according to the C&D order.
In the second instance cited in the Dec. 3 C&D, Ragas represented C. Jupiter in obtaining a homeowners insurance policy from Maison Insurance Company. The policy was to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2020, and expire on Oct. 1, 2021. Jupiter paid Citywide $3,175 for the Maison policy. Ragas issued a check to Maison in the amount of $1,900 for Jupiter’s policy and failed to submit the remainder of the premium. On April 13, 2021, Maison issued a notice of cancellation, and the policy canceled on April 28 for non-payment of premium.
Jupiter’s property sustained damage from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm. Jupiter attempted to file a claim, and Maison informed her on Oct. 22 that her policy had been canceled for non-payment of premium. Jupiter presented Maison with proof of payment of $3,175 to Citywide for her policy. Jupiter and Maison attempted to contact Ragas several times without success, according to the Dec. 3 C&D order.
On April 13, 2021, Ragas submitted an application for insurance and received a policy quote for $3,111 from Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Doyle disputes signing the application. Ragas paid a $65 non-refundable application fee, but the quote expired on April 28, when the premium payment was not received.
On May 12, 2021, Ragas received a quote of $3,302 for coverage on Doyle’s property. Again, Ragas paid the $65 application fee, and the quote expired on May 27, because the payment was not received.
On June 15, 2021, Ragas received a quote of $2,858 from Louisiana Citizens for Doyle’s property. Ragas made a payment of $872, which included the $65 policy fee. The quote expired on May 27 when the required premium payment was not forthcoming.
On Aug. 20, 2021, Ragas submitted an application and got a quote of $2,763 from Louisiana Citizens. Doyle disputes signing the application. Once again, Ragas paid the $65 policy fee. On Sept. 4, the quote expired when the company failed to receive the premium. On Sept. 17, Doyle paid $780.25 directly to Louisiana Citizens, and the policy was reinstated. On Oct. 26, a notice of cancellation was issued for non-payment of premium, effective Nov. 10. Doyle paid $645.25 on Nov. 3.
After Doyle submitted the official consumer complaint to LDI, Ragas submitted a $2,698 premium payment to Louisiana Citizens. There is still an outstanding balance of $183.50 on Doyle’s policy.
On Nov. 2, Ragas made an online payment in Jupiter’s name for $1,370 which would cover the remaining premium due on Jupiter’s account. The payment was returned due to insufficient funds.
The bottom line is that Ragas failed to remit to Maison $1,275 of the premium she collected from Jupiter for the purchase of Jupiter’s policy.
This time at least two customers were harmed by Ragas’s scheme, but LDI is concerned there may be others. Consequently, in a news release, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon urged customers of Ragas and Citywide to call their insurers directly to verify that the coverage they paid for is in place and contact LDI if they see a problem or have experienced anything unusual.
LDI noted that Ragas has 30 days from the date of notice to file an appeal and that action by the LDI is not stayed by an appeal.
The administrative action will be reported to the National Insurance Producer Registry, LDI said in the order.