CHICAGO — A former suburban insurance agent has been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly swindling money from an elderly client.
DIANE LAZAR was a licensed insurance producer and authorized agent of various insurance companies. Beginning in 2008 and continuing until 2014, Lazar submitted applications for an elderly client in his 80s to purchase several annuities and a life insurance policy from the companies Lazar represented, according to an indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Upon approval of the applications, the client paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in premiums and Lazar received commissions from the companies, the indictment states. In some instances, Lazar designated her daughter as the beneficiary of the annuities, falsely claiming that her daughter was the client’s grandchild or great grandchild, the indictment states.
Upon the client’s death in 2014, Lazar attempted to fraudulently collect some of the client’s annuity and insurance proceeds, the indictment alleges. She also submitted a phony power of attorney to the client’s bank to fraudulently withdraw approximately $100,000 from his checking account, the indictment states.
The indictment was returned on Feb. 4, 2020. It charges Lazar, 46, of Cape Coral, Fla., and formerly of Palos Heights, with two counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of making a false statement to a financial institution. Arraignment is set for Feb. 12, 2020, at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle, Sr.
The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey B. Rubenstein.
“Keeping older Americans safe from fraud is a top priority for the Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “We are committed to protecting our vulnerable seniors from those who seek to exploit them.”
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The bank fraud and false statement counts are each punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison, while each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. More information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to help seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage.