A Palm Beach insurance broker accused by a Tampa church of running a fraudulent life insurance scheme was arrested earlier this month on similar fraud charges.
Richard M. Incandela, 57, was arrested following an undercover operation by the Division of Insurance Fraud. Investigators say Incandela received 15 payments totaling nearly $489,000 from an elderly Tampa couple for life insurance policies that were never issued.
An October lawsuit filed by St. John Greek Orthodox Church describes a similar deal: Elderly parishioners agreed to donate their "unused insurability" to the church and signed up for policies.
The suit argues Incandela promised to sell the policies to investors, who would pay the monthly premiums and collect the death benefit when the parishioner died. The church was supposed to make money when policies sold.
The Tampa couple are former St. John parishioners and heard about Incandela's offer at the church, but their case is separate from the lawsuit.
Incandela originally consented to an interview for this article but did not return several phone calls. His lawyer, Tom Gano of West Palm Beach, also did not return numerous messages.
The Division of Insurance Fraud started looking into Incandela in October. An initial tip came from the couple at a senior workshop held by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
Incandela had stopped returning their phone calls. Undercover officer Dave Lindsay posed as the couple's nephew and set up a meeting with the broker.
They met just before lunch on Feb. 1 in a conference room in north St. Petersburg. Armed with an array of charts, Incandela made a version of a pitch he's given to organizations across the country.
According to investigators, Incandela said the couple's policies would be re-set if the nephew took out another $528,000 in life insurance. The nephew started asking questions. Incandela started sweating and talking in circles. The entire meeting was recorded.
"I found him to be a very poor liar," Lindsay said.
Within an hour, Incandela was arrested and then booked into the Orient Road Jail in Tampa. He was released early the next morning on a $17,000 bond.
Investigators recommended two felony charges: selling insurance without a license and organized fraud. The state attorney's office will decide whether to charge Incandela and for which crimes. He faces 35 years if convicted.
In a previous interview with the Times, Incandela blamed his financial struggles on a down economy and said his business raised millions for charities — before the markets crashed.
"The market is so painfully hard, we've scaled back significantly," he said. "We're all but dormant waiting for the market to come back."
Kathleen Grubb, Incandela's sister, would not provide details about his financial problems. She did say, "there's more to this story than what's been written in the paper."
Lee Logan can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.