WTOC Investigates: McIntosh Co. insurance agent facing felony fraud charges

MCINTOSH CO., GA (WTOC) - McIntosh County investigators have arrested and charged an insurance agent with fraud.

Dennis Avera is facing three counts of felony fraud charges after investigators say he was pocketing money from clients who thought they were purchasing auto insurance.

Investigators will be at Sapelo Insurance near Highway 17 and Blount Crossing in Darien for most of the day collecting evidence and copying files. Right now, they know of three victims but they believe more are out there.

"Essentially, he was taking insurance premiums and pocketing it," said Deputy Insurance Commissioner Jay Florence.

Investigators say these victims went to police when they realized they had no auto insurance - often when they needed it the most - after an accident. The deputy insurance commissioner was here along with McIntosh County Sheriff's Office deputies who showed up and arrested and charged Avera Tuesday morning.

"That's exactly what happened. They needed the insurance and found out they didn't have it," said McIntosh County Sheriff Stephen Jessup.

WTOC had a chance to speak to Avera as police were taking him into custody.

"Are you guilty of insurance fraud?"

"No, I am not," replied Avera.

"What do you have to say?"

"The company did a couple of billing issues that wouldn't accept payments and I've been trying to correct them for about four weeks now," Avera said.

"You've been charged with three counts of felony insurance fraud. What do you have to say about that?"

"I've got my lawyer. I'm going to sue the company," Avera said.

Some clients we spoke to Tuesday are now worried about their own policy.

"I'm going to have to call Progressive to see if I still have insurance on my car," said Brittany Armstrong, a Sapelo Insurance client.

Avera's insurance license has been revoked. A cease and desist notice was presented Tuesday.

This was not the first time our cameras have been here covering a fraud investigation. Investigators tell us Avera's father was arrested and charged in 2013, but he committed suicide before his case went to trial.

While it may seem like a case of a son following in his father's footsteps, Avera is adamant he's done nothing wrong.

"Because of the billing with the insurance company, they wouldn't take their payments because of suspensions with driver's license, registration cards and so when I try to give the money back to the clients that's where this issue evolved," said Avera.

Avera is facing three counts of felony fraud charges but investigators believe there are more victims out there. If you have questions or concerns, you can contact the Georgia Insurance Commissioner.

If you believe you may have purchased insurance from this agent or have questions about your policy in general, help is available. From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Insurance Fraud Department agents will be on hand at the McIntosh County Sheriff's Office.

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