A Santa Barbara insurance agent was arrested Tuesday on 13 felony counts of grand theft, embezzlement, and money laundering after allegedly collecting over $72,425 in insurance premium payments from five clients — three Santa Barbara homeowners and two small business owners — while leaving one client uninsured during the 1/9 Debris Flow of 2018.
Although the uninsured client did not suffer damage from the debris flow, the agent, 40-year-old Mark Lynch, allegedly pocketed premium payments from all five of the clients for his own personal use. The Department of Insurance investigation found that the alleged misappropriation of premium payments took place between January 2016 and January 2017, during which time the five clients were left uninsured against potential liability claims.
“Leaving homeowners without insurance during the Montecito Mudslides could have been devastating for these families and businesses,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “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.”
Lynch’s bail at the Santa Barbara County Jail is set at $100,000; the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case. The Department of Insurance also filed an accusation against Lynch and is pursuing revocation of his insurance license.