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Agent accused of keeping insurance money

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

An insurance agent has been charged with pocketing nearly $119,000 of St. Petersburg College's money after he canceled one of the school's insurance policies with the underwriter.

Thomas E. Pollock, 50, is accused of signing up the college to a cancer reimbursement insurance plan in 1990, then canceling the policy with the underwriter two years later. Pollock kept collecting premiums from the college for the next nine years and did not tell college officials that he had canceled the plan, an arrest affidavit states.

While he collected premiums, Pollock also paid claims over the nine years. The difference _ $118,712 _ he kept, the arrest affidavit states.

Pollock was charged Thursday morning with grand theft and acting as an insurer without a certificate of authority, both third-degree felonies. Pollock was arrested after more than a year of investigation by the Florida Department of Insurance and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

Pollock was released from the Pinellas County Jail on his own recognizance. Pollock and his attorney, Jeff Brown, declined to comment.

Pollock entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment Thursday. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Dec. 2.

Pollock, of Palm Harbor, lists his business address as 31127 U.S. 19 N, which is listed as United Financial Benefit Services Inc. Pollock is listed as officer/director of the company in records kept with the Florida Division of Corporations.

The company filed papers two weeks ago to change its name to Florida Medicaid Filing Services, according to state records.

The discrepancy in the college's insurance coverage was discovered by Douglas Duncan, the school's human resources director. In April 2001, Duncan noticed that there was no insurance company listing on the certificate of coverage.

"There were irregularities, and he realized the company that was supposed to be underwriting this policy was no longer involved," said Amelia Carey, spokeswoman for the college.

Duncan asked Pollock about the discrepancy in the coverage, which employees can purchase to cover them in case they get cancer. Pollock provided Duncan with another certificate of coverage, but Duncan called the underwriter and learned that the coverage had been canceled in 1992, the arrest affidavit states.

No one noticed that the underwriter was out of the picture because all claims had been paid by Pollock, Carey said.

"I think everything went along perfectly fine because he paid all the claims," Carey said. "What he was basically doing is selling the policies, pocketing the money and paying the claims. He made every single payment.

"We didn't suffer in any way," she added. "All our policy holders were paid the claims that they deserved."

But Duncan reported what happened to the Florida Department of Insurance, which launched an investigation last summer.

"Pollock eliminated the middleman, and all of the premium payments went to Pollock," Investigator James Trehy wrote in his arrest affidavit.

Trehy later found that Pollock had opened a bank account in the name of the cancer medical reimbursement plan one month before he canceled the policy with the underwriter. The checks the college wrote out for the insurance coverage were deposited into that account, the arrest affidavit states.

Trehy tried to reach Pollock for an interview by leaving a message at his home, but the investigator received a call the next day from Brown, who said Pollock would not be talking, the affidavit states.

_ Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156 or tischsptimes.com.

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