The head of a small South Florida investment firm has been charged with insurance fraud after submitting a $300,000 roof leak claim to his insurer, American International Group, along with fake photos mold and other damage to his home.
Michael DeGeorge, 38, of Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, Fla., was arrested Tuesday after a months-long investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ fraud office. The arrest was announced Wednesday by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, head of DFS.
“Insurance fraud has no place in the state of Florida and my fraud detectives work hard on behalf of Floridians to ensure that fraudsters are caught and brought to justice,” Patronis said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it’s plans like these that drive up insurance premiums and make home insurance unaffordable.”
DeGeorge and his attorney could not be reached Thursday. He seems to be well connected in South Florida. Florida Secretary of State corporate records show him as chairman of the MDeG investment group, headquartered at the Jupiter house for which the claim was made. And a jeweler who sold him a Rolex watch said DeGeorge came from “a very wealthy family”, according to the arrest affidavit that details the investigation.
DeGeorge also filed a lawsuit against multiple contractors who built or worked on the high-end home he made the leak and mold insurance claim for, court records and the arrest affidavit show. . The complaint alleges significant problems with the house and mold, which affected the health of DeGeorge’s child.
Two defendants asked the Palm Beach County Circuit Court to dismiss the lawsuit.
The arrest brief explains how DeGeorge made the insurance claim and how AIG investigators became suspects. In January 2020, DeGeorge reported the issues to AIG, saying mold was all over his home, due to a roof leak. It was so bad he said his family had to move and he threw away a lot of his stuff.
AIG asked him to submit photographs of the contents and the mold damage, and DeGeorge provided some 300 photos, investigators said. The items, which DeGeorge listed on a computer spreadsheet, included furniture, artwork, electronics, clothing, toys, curtains, rugs and more.
But AIG representatives, including an AIG subrogation attorney, noticed that some things weren’t quite right. DeGeorge had filed a similar claim on the property a few years earlier, failed to allow inspection of the contents, claimed he threw them away, and submitted photographs of the alleged damage. AIG paid $196,413 on the earlier claim.
AIG’s Special Investigations Unit determined that the 2020 claim included some of the same items listed in the previous claim. And analysis of the photographs’ metadata showed some were taken after he said he threw the objects away, while other photos of structural damage were taken up to 18 months before the alleged date of loss. , according to information about the arrest.
Some of the photos were from a real estate website, some appeared to be from other properties and some were those submitted in the previous claim, investigators said. Many images showed no water damage.
“Given these facts, Mr. DeGeorge has made a material false statement to AIG in support of his landlord’s claim,” reads the affidavit of arrest, signed by DFS fraud detective Kassandra Grimmett.
DeGeorge also claimed the Rolex watch was valued at $35,000 and was so damaged it had to be thrown away. The investigator interviewed the Boca Raton jeweler who sold him the watch. He said DeGeorge brought the watch for appraisal in 2017, and gave no explanation as to why the appraisal was necessary. The jeweler valued it at $25,000 and said he was shocked that anyone would throw away a Rolex – the diamonds alone were worth a lot.
DeGeorge and his wife failed to appear for a 2021 sworn exam, and AIG has denied most of the claim. He had already paid his living expenses when the family said he left home.
AIG referred the matter to the DFS Fraud Office in May 2021.
DeGeorge was released Tuesday from the Palm Beach County Jail on $3,000 cash bond.
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