CURRAN MOVES TO STOP VIATICAL INVESTMENT FRAUD; WARNS UNSUSPECTING INVESTORS OF SCHEME
Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that his office's Securities Division filed a complaint and a motion for a preliminary injunction and appointment of a receiver against a Baltimore City viatical settlement company, Answer Care, Inc., and its president, charging them with violating Maryland securities laws by raising millions of investor dollars with promises of low risk and high return investments. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Kathleen O’Ferrall Friedman found in favor of Curran’s Securities Division and granted the preliminary injunction against Answer Care and appointed a receiver to take control of the company and its assets.
According to the complaint, Answer Care, Inc. operated an unregistered and fraudulent viatical investment program. Viatical settlement companies like Answer Care, sell investments in the form of interests in death benefit proceeds of life insurance policies of the terminally ill. Investors purchase the death benefit for less than the face value of the policy, and recover the face value of the policy when the insured dies.
Answer Care, Inc., raised more than $7 million from at least 145 investors. The complaint alleges that in these schemes insurance applicants lie to insurance companies by failing to disclose a pre-existing medical condition such as HIV status or AIDS. When the insurance companies later determine that the policies were fraudulently obtained, the policies are canceled. In the case of Answer Care, as many as 38 percent of the policies it sold have been canceled, resulting in an investor loss of over $2 million. Securities regulators around the country are concerned that sales of viatical investments too often involve fraudulent practices and cause unsuspecting investors significant financial losses.
"We had to file a complaint and seek emergency relief," Attorney General Curran said, "because Answer Care, Inc. has defrauded Maryland investors and must be stopped from continuing its fraudulent business practices. We must make sure that unsuspecting investors do not suffer additional harm by investing more money in this scheme. By filing the complaint and seeking emergency relief, we can put a stop to these violations."
According to the order, Answer Care, Inc., its president Mark Massoni, and its agents or consultants Donald Forney, Andrew Walter, Sierra Consulting, Inc., Sierra Marketing, Millennium Corporate Consulting, Inc., Robert Hoover, David Hoover, John Hoover and Steven Warren are enjoined from selling unregistered securities, employing unregistered securities brokers or investment advisers, and from employing a scheme or device to defraud investors. Mr. Massoni, Answer Care, Inc. and its agents are further ordered to turn over to a receiver the books and records of Answer Care, Inc., its assets, and any assets purchased with funds from investors.
Mr. Massoni and Answer Care, Inc. have the right to answer the allegations in the complaint and to appeal the preliminary injunction.
Curran emphasized that the Securities Division's investigation of this matter is continuing and urges anyone who invested funds with Answer Care, Inc. or who has information concerning their investment programs, to call the Securities Division of his office at 410-576-6337.
Curran reminded investors to call the Securities Division at 410-576-6360 before they invest to find out whether their investment adviser, broker and securities are or should be registered. Even when an investment program looks reasonable, and friends and family trust the promoter, it's better to take a few minutes to verify the status of the investment and its promoters.