On January 27, 2017, a Division of Insurance hearing officer entered an order under General Laws Chapter 175, § 166B against Blenda V. Gamez of Arlington, Texas, revoking and ordering the return of any and all producer licenses, to cease transacting any insurance business in Massachusetts, and to dispose of any interests in Massachusetts as a proprietor, partner, stockholder, officer, or employee of any licensed insurance producer. The Division also fined Ms. Gamez $500 for each of three violations, for a total fine of $1500, for failing to report administrative actions from other states as required by G.L. c. 175, § 162V(a).
Missouri begins downward spiral for Ms. Gamez with a fine for her not disclosing a criminal proceeding history
Ms. Gamez has worked as an insurance agent for several telemarketing firms selling accident and health and life insurance based products. Her marketing efforts apparently focused on Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, and Prescription Drug Plans offered by United Healthcare and CUNA Mutual affiliated companies.
Compared to many insurance agents working for telemarketing firms, Ms. Gamez had a relatively long tenure first obtaining her nonresident producer licenses to sell for United Healthcare in 2009 from a number of states including Massachusetts.
One of the states where Ms. Gamez held a nonresident producer license for accident and health since 2009, was Missouri. In 2013, she applied to the Missouri Division of Insurance to add life insurance as an additional line to her nonresident producer license. The Consumer Affairs Division of the Department investigated and found she had failed to correctly answer on her original application and subsequent renewal application whether she had a criminal record that required disclosure.
In lieu of instituting any action to revoke her license or impose any other penalties allowed by statute, the Missouri Department allowed her to sign a “Voluntary Forfeiture.” Under the terms of the stipulation, Ms. Gamez agreed to “voluntarily and knowingly surrender and forfeit the sum of $250.00, such sum to be paid into the Missouri State School Fund.”
The Missouri Department apparently found the voluntary forfeiture closed the matter as it subsequently issued Ms. Gamez the additional license to sell life insurance as a nonresident producer.
Ms. Gamez might also have considered the matter closed. However, under the laws of at least ten other states, including Massachusetts, where Ms. Gamez held nonresident producer licenses she had the obligation to report any administrative actions taken by any state.
When Ms. Gamez failed to advise these states in a timely manner of the Missouri administrative action, she began to lose her nonresident producer licenses one-by-one.
Missouri’s license action starts chain reaction of fines and revocations.
The first state to act after Missouri was Louisiana. On April 14, 2013, Louisiana also allowed her to continue as a nonresident producer but exacted, like Missouri, a penalty of $250 from Ms. Gamez.
On April 21, 2014, South Dakota entered into a stipulation with Ms. Gamez fining her $250 for failing to report the Louisiana action but allowing her to continue as a nonresident producer under specified conditions.
On June 17, 2014, The North Carolina Department of Insurance instead of fining Ms. Gamez like Missouri, Louisiana, and South Dakota and allowing Ms. Gamez to continue her nonresident producer license demanded and obtained a voluntary surrender of her license. For purposes of reporting by insurance producers to jurisdictions where they hold insurance licenses, a voluntary surrender is a reportable administrative action as Ms. Gamez later learned.
New York, however, took a dimmer view of Ms. Gamez’ failure to report the Missouri or Louisiana fines. On January 15, 2015, the New York Department revoked her nonresident producer license citing as the reason that Ms. Gamez “failed to report to the Superintendent within 30 days of the final disposition of the matter that she was fined by the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration and by the Louisiana Department of Insurance.”
On February 18, 2015, approximately 10 months after entering into its stipulation with Ms. Gamez, the South Dakota Department notified her that it would not renew her nonresident producer license because she “failed to report a North Carolina administrative action the Division (sic) within 30 days of the final disposition…”
Similar to other nonresident producer licensees who failed to report an administrative action to all the states where they are licensed, an almost chain-reaction-like effect of revocations occurred to Ms. Gamez initiated by Ms. Gamez’ failure to report the original administrative actions:
- On March 1, 2015, the Delaware Department of Insurance revoked Ms. Gamez’ Delaware insurance producer license.
- On April 29, 2015, the State of Washington’s Department of Insurance revoked Ms. Gamez’ nonresident producer license stating on her record: “This license is revoked because an administrative action taken in the State of New York was not reported…”
- On August 6, 2015, the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission revoked Gamez’ insurance producer license because of her failure, “…to timely notify the Commission of administrative actions taken against her by the State of North Carolina, by the State of New York, and by the State of South Dakota.”
- On January 13, 2016, the Louisiana Department of Insurance revoked Ms. Gamez’ nonresident producer license.
- On March 16, 2016, the North Dakota Insurance Commissioner revoked Ms. Gamez’ nonresident insurance producer license stating that she had failed to report within 30 days, as required, administrative actions in Missouri, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina, New York, Florida, Washington and Virginia.
Massachusetts revocation action based on three failures to report
Massachusetts commenced its proceedings against Ms. Gamez on October 20, 2016. The Division of Insurance sought the revocation of Ms. Gamez’ Massachusetts nonresident producer license on her failure to report to the Division that four jurisdictions had previously revoked her insurance licenses.
The Division’s October 20, 2016 order to show cause (“OTSC”) alleged that Ms. Gamez failed to report, as required, to the Massachusetts Division administrative actions taken against her nonresident producer licenses by to the insurance regulators of Washington, Virginia, North Dakota and Louisiana as required by G.L. c. 175, § 162V(a).
The Division also sought fines against Ms. Gamez for her failure to make these reports as required by § 162V(a) and, as is usual in these types of license hearings, the Division sought the revocation of Ms. Gamez’ licenses and orders that would require Ms. Gamez to dispose of any insurance-related interests in Massachusetts and to prohibit her from conducting any insurance-related business in the commonwealth.
Ms. Gamez’ failure to appear results in default and a summary decision against her
The Division served Ms. Gamez by certified mail and regular mail at the address Ms. Gamez used in obtaining her nonresident producer license.
Ms. Gamez, however, never contacted the Division about the OTSC nor appeared at the scheduled hearing.
Although the certified mail sending the OTSC to Ms. Gamez was unclaimed, the duplicate copy sent by regular mail was never returned as undeliverable. As a result, the hearing officer found that she had received sufficient notice based upon the notice mailed to her address of record with the Division.
The hearing officer summarily entered a default and proceeded to enter judgment stating:
I find that [Ms.] Gamez’ failure to answer the OTSC or to respond to the Motion, and her failure to appear I find that [Ms.] Gamez’ failure to answer the OTSC or to respond to the Motion, and her failure to appear at the hearing warrant a finding that she is in default. By her default, [Ms.] Gamez has waived her right to proceed further with an evidentiary hearing in this case and I may consider the Division’s Motion based on the record.
Hearing officer finds violations warrant fines under the General Penalty Statute
The hearing officer accepted as evidence copies of the orders issued by Washington, Virginia, North Dakota and Louisiana revoking Gamez’ insurance producer licenses to prove Ms. Gamez’ violations of G.L. c. 175, § 162R(a)(9) (Allowing the Commissioner to revoke a producer’s Massachusetts licenses where another jurisdiction has revoked that producer’s license) and G.L. c. 175, § 162V(a) (Failure to report out-of-state administrative proceedings)
The hearing officer found that the revocation in the four states, Washington, Virginia, North Dakota and Louisiana, supported the revocation of Ms. Gamez’ nonresident producer license in Massachusetts under § 162R(a)(9). However, the hearing officer only found that the failure to report administrative proceeding allegations applied to three state proceedings: Washington, North Dakota and Louisiana. The hearing officer did not elaborate in her decision as to why the allegation did not apply to the Virginia revocation.
Final Orders entered and fine assessed by hearing officer
Based upon her finding that that Ms. Gamez had failed to report three administrative proceedings in other states to Massachusetts as required by G.L. c. 175, § 162V(a) which states:
A producer shall report to the Commissioner any administrative action taken against the producer in another jurisdiction or by another governmental agency in the commonwealth within 30 days of the final disposition of the matter. This report shall include a copy of the order, consent to order or other relevant legal documents.
This particular section does not specify a penalty for non-compliance with its requirements, the hearing officer, however, ruled that;
Violations of the section are therefore subject to fines authorized under G. L. c. 175, §194. The maximum fine allowed under that section is $500 per violation. I find that Gamez committed three violations of G. L. c. 175, §162V (a) and impose the maximum fine for each.
The provision cited by the hearing officer, G.L. c. 175, § 194, is the catch-all provision of the insurance statutes that provides: “Whoever violates any provision of this chapter, the penalty whereof is not specifically provided for herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.”
In addition to the $1500 fine payable within 30 days, the hearing officer entered orders against Ms. Gamez requiring her return of any licenses to the Division, prohibiting her from directly or indirectly transacting any insurance business, or acquiring, in any capacity whatsoever, any insurance business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and to dispose of any and all interests in Massachusetts as proprietor, partner, stockholder, officer or employee of any licensed insurance producer.
Resident Texas producer license still appears in full force and effect
Interestingly, Ms. Gamez LinkedIn profile shows her as apparently still working for a telemarking firm in Texas selling insurance. Also, notwithstanding her licensing problems in other states, the Texas Department of Insurance shows her having an active resident license to act as a “General Lines Agent for Life, Accident, Health and HMO insurance.” This license is valid until January 31, 2018 and shows appointments from Ms. Gamez to place insurance for Denticare, Inc., Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., Humana Insurance Company, Humana Dental Insurance Company, and United Healthcare of Texas, Inc.