A Santa Barbara insurance agent was arrested Tuesday by detectives with the California Department of Insurance on 13 felony counts of grand theft, embezzlement and money laundering, authorities said.
Mark Lynch, 40, was arrested after he allegedly collected more than $72,425 in insurance premium payments from five clients and leaving them uninsured, including one client who was uninsured during the Montecito debris flow in January 2018 that left 23 people dead.
The uninsured client did not suffer damage or injuries in the debris flow.
Authorities said Mr. Lynch pocketed premium payments from five clients and used those funds for his personal benefit, according to a news release from the California Department of Insurance.
Three of the clients involved were Santa Barbara homeowners and two clients were small-business owners left uninsured against potential liability claims. The Department of Insurance launched an investigation after receiving complaints from Mr. Lynch’s clients. The alleged misappropriation of payments took place between January 2016 and January 2017.
“Leaving homeowners without insurance during the Montecito Mudslides could have been devastating for these families and businesses,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement. “The arrest of this agent should be a warning to anyone who puts consumers at risk to seek personal benefit. The Department of Insurance will continue to use every resource available to stop unscrupulous agents from preying on customers.”
The Department of Insurance has filed an accusation against Mr. Lynch and is seeking to revoke his insurance license. He is being held at Santa Barbara County Jail on $100,000 bail.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.