San Antonio couple claims insurance agent took thousands from their policy
Couple says La Vernia insurance agent Patsy Ritchey took thousands
It's been nearly a week since La Vernia insurance agent Patsy Ritchey abruptly closed up her office as it came to light she's under investigation for possible insurance fraud. Now some of her former clients are speaking out.
Nicholas Cantu never thought that much about the life insurance policy he bought from Farmers Insurance in 1999. He made the monthly payments and left it alone.
"It's just something you buy because you think you need it," said Cantu.
Cantu purchased the policy from his insurance agent at the time, that agent retired in 2007 and the policy was transferred to Patsy Ritchey.
Other than the fact that he had never met Ritchey and he lived in San Antonio and her offices were located in La Vernia, Cantu didn't have any concerns.
Then in January of this year, he got a visit from an investigator who works for the Bexar County District Attorney's office.
"He was letting us know that he thought we were victims of fraud by Patsy Ritchey," Cantu said. "That she had been taking money from the life insurance policy."
The investigator had two checks with Cantu's signature on them but he never signed them. One check was cashed in May 2009, the other in November 2009.
Under Cantu's forged signature were the words "Pay to Patsy Ritchey Insurance."
Thousands of dollars had been taken out of the policy. Cantu and his wife Lupe couldn't believe what was happening.
"I was just kind of like what? My insurance agent? That's the last thing you think of," said Cantu.
The Cantus thought they were alone, then they saw news reports that revealed Ritchey's office was shut down last week, and that she's being investigated by the Texas Department of Insurance.
The couple has since learned there are potentially hundreds of victim's who are missing money.
"I've been stressed out about this since we found out about it," said Lupe Cantu. "It has hurt me physically, emotionally, mentally, it's almost taken its toll on me."
The Cantus said they only met Ritchey face-to-face once in 2009. They went to her office to make some changes to the policy.
Looking back, Lupe Cantu said she remembers Ritchey and her employees acted nervous when they showed up.
"They apparently thought we were going to withdraw money and they probably didn't have any in there to put in there for us and that made them nervous," recalled Cantu.
The Cantus aren't just upset with Ritchey, they're also angry with Farmers Insurance.
They also don't understand how Ritchey was allowed to keep writing policies while she was under investigation. The couple has hired an attorney and is considering suing Farmer's and Ritchey.
"We fully expect Farmer's to rectify this situation and make our clients whole," said attorney Michael Ireland. "If Farmer's fails or refuses to do so, we're fully prepared to file suit."
So far, no charges have been filed against Ritchey.
Meanwhile, Ritchey finds herself at the center of a second investigation involving missing money.
The Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce discovered it's missing at least $27,000 from an account that Ritchey had access to through her position as Treasurer for the group.
La Vernia police and the Texas Rangers are investigating those missing funds. The group said it still can't access some of its other accounts to see if more money is missing.
On Monday, the Chamber's executive board stripped Ritchey of her treasurer title.
Farmers Insurance has also terminated its relationship with Ritchey. Her former clients are asked to contact the district office in San Antonio at 210-338-6884 for more information.
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