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Port Lavaca couple calls for Farmers Insurance coverage step up | Calhoun

A Port Lavaca couple who mentioned they had been defrauded by a Farmers Insurance coverage agent have a easy request for the corporate.

“Take duty in your identify,” mentioned Linda Bournias, 64. “You licensed him.”

Greater than per week after the arrest of Port Lavaca Farmers Insurance coverage agent Paul Orta, 36, and his spouse, Marisa Renee Orta, 37, the Bourniases made a startling discovery: In the midst of hurricane season, their $475,000 bayfront house was not insured for windstorm injury.

Regardless of handing the Ortas a $3,424 verify in Could for a yr’s value of protection, the Bourniases mentioned their cash by no means made it to the Texas Windstorm Insurance coverage Affiliation. The Bourniases mentioned as an alternative, the Ortas established a put up workplace field of their identify to maintain the Bourniases unaware of coverage expiration notices. The couple mentioned the Ortas additionally obtained a fraudulent mortgage of their names.

Calhoun County Sheriff’s Workplace officers mentioned they’ve obtained at the very least 50 complaints from clients of the Ortas reporting fraud.

Victoria lawyer Brent Dornburg, who’s representing the Ortas, requested the general public to order their judgment “till all of the information are in.”

“These are mere accusations,” he mentioned. “They’re trying ahead to their day in court docket.”

Regardless of figuring out concerning the sheriff’s workplace investigation for at the very least three weeks earlier than the arrests, Farmers Insurance coverage stayed silent and made no effort to contact purchasers about their potential lack of protection.

Farmers didn’t reply to repeated cellphone calls and emails asking for remark.

If not for a July 25 Victoria Advocate story detailing the investigation, the Bourniases mentioned they may by no means have realized their dream house was unprotected. John Bournias, a chemical plant employee, and Linda Bournias, a retired Victoria instructor, bought the Lavaca Bay house in 2018 to be nearer to their grandchildren.

Days earlier, sheriff’s officers suggested county residents on Fb concerning the fraud accusations and potential lapses in protection.

That inaction by the big-name insurance coverage firm, they mentioned, was extraordinarily irresponsible.

“They’re doing nothing,” Linda Bournias mentioned about Farmers.

And the Bourniases mentioned they quickly realized they had been hardly the one Orta clients experiencing insurance coverage woes.

Days after their surprising discovery, the Bourniases mentioned they had been telling pals about what had occurred whereas internet hosting a celebration for his or her granddaughter.

A girl who had simply bought her first home that was not a cellular house realized she, too, had paid for windstorm insurance coverage by means of the Ortas. Just like the Bourniases, she, too, discovered her house was not coated.

Farmers had not contacted her both.

Chief Deputy Johnny Krause, of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Workplace, mentioned Farmers isn’t legally required to contact clients about potential lapses in windstorm insurance coverage as a result of these insurance policies are dealt with by the Texas Windstorm Insurance coverage Affiliation. However he additionally agreed such a discover could be the courteous step to take.

In 1971, the Texas Legislature based the affiliation in response to market circumstances after Hurricane Celia. Whereas the affiliation gives windstorm protection to clients independently of personal insurance coverage corporations, clients are nonetheless required to buy it by means of a licensed agent.

Nevertheless it wasn’t simply the dearth of discover from Farmers that irritated the Bourniases.

For one, Farmers has not refunded the windstorm fee verify the Bourniases mentioned was paid to the Ortas.

Though the Bourniases mentioned they had been fast to shell out more cash for windstorm protection by means of one other agent, they think about themselves fortunate to have the means to take action.

The girl who had realized concerning the Ortas’ arrests on the celebration was one such one that couldn’t simply provide you with the 1000’s of {dollars} crucial to acquire protection.

“There’s some guilt that I really feel,” John Bournias mentioned. “I used to be in a position to go lower someone a verify the subsequent day to guard my belongings. A few of these individuals can’t. How is that OK?”

Additionally they questioned why the corporate even allowed Paul Orta to function a consultant and agent for Farmers.

In 2005, Orta was accused of theft of stolen property between $500 and $1,500, though prosecutors in the end deserted the case. Two years later, he was convicted for issuing a nasty verify.

In 2006, Orta’s spouse, Marisa Renee Orta, was convicted of theft of property between $20,000 and $100,000 and was given 10 years’ probation and ordered to pay $22,932.80 in restitution.

In response to the Texas Division of Banking, Orta embezzled $22,932.80 from Prosperity Financial institution in Victoria, the place she was working as a teller. She stole money from the vault, ATM money cassettes and unused drawers and was barred from working for a state financial institution or belief firm however not for insurance coverage companies.

Though it’s unclear whether or not Marisa Renee Orta was an official worker on the company, the Bourniases mentioned they dealt together with her and by no means even met Paul Orta. They mentioned they had been impressed by the spouse’s helpfulness however famous many situations of “sloppiness.”

Marisa Renee Orta was additionally the one who deposited their windstorm insurance coverage fee verify right into a TDECU account, they mentioned.

If Paul Orta had been an unbiased agent or lacked the backing of a big-name supplier, John Bournias mentioned he would have gone to a different company.

“That’s the one cause,” John Bournias mentioned. “I’d must go together with name-brand” insurance coverage.

In any case, belief is important in relation to insurance coverage, the Bourniases mentioned, and so they trusted Farmers to do the precise factor.

“The most important asset you’ll ever have is your own home,” mentioned John Bournias.

“I’ll by no means belief Farmers once more,” mentioned Linda Bournias.

Jon Wilcox reviews on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He could also be reached jwilcox@vicad.com or 361-580-6515.


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