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Charges in viaticals probe grow

A statewide investigation of viatical fraud produced criminal charges against eight more people Friday, all of them accused of misrepresenting their health to obtain life insurance policies. The men sold most of the policies to Mutual Benefits Corp. of Fort Lauderdale, one of the state's largest dealers in viatical settlements, which resold them to investors.

Viatical settlements are life insurance policies that sick or elderly people sell for less than the death benefit, which the purchaser collects when the insured person dies.

Investigators said the men charged Friday took out 47 policies worth $4.9-million from 32 insurance companies, although most were charged with only one count of grand theft and one count of dealing in stolen property.

Mutual Benefits vice president Steven Steiner said that until the state's viatical law changed last year, his company bought any policy that was past the two-year period insurance companies have to contest it. Last year, the Legislature made it illegal for viatical dealers to buy life insurance policies they know were obtained by misrepresentation.

Charged Friday were Ralph Cahall and Richard Fraher Jr. of Pensacola; Anthony Marano and Guy Leopold of West Palm Beach; Albert Esposito Jr., Boynton Beach; Joel Seidman, Fort Lauderdale; Edward Hoseclaw, Miami Beach; and Christopher Sabatino, Bal Harbour. They could not be reached for comment. Criminal charges have been brought against seven other people and one company since the state began its investigation last year.