10/10/2012 6:43:00 PM Commerce takes action against Oregon-based "Embassy of Heaven Church" for selling phantom auto insurance policies Cited for targeting members of a faith-based community
SAINT PAUL, MN - Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman recently announced the Minnesota Department of Commerce has taken action against the Oregon-based "Embassy of Heaven Church" and its leader Paul Revere for offering invalid auto insurance policies in Minnesota. The Department of Commerce has ordered "Embassy of Heaven Church" to cease and desist from acting and operating as an insurer in the state of Minnesota.
"Under the guise of providing 'church based insurance,' Paul Revere and the 'Embassy of Heaven Church' misled consumers into using phony auto insurance policies," said Commissioner Mike Rothman. "In this classic case of affinity fraud, 'Embassy of Heaven Church' deliberately exploited and manipulated the trust of Minnesotans, specifically targeting members of a faith-based community."
In June of 2012, the Renville County Attorney's Office contacted the Department about the "Embassy of Heaven Church's" licensing status. This inquiry followed a criminal citation issued to a Minnesotan without automobile insurance. In defense of that citation, the owner of the vehicle produced a "Certificate of Self-Insurance" issued by "Embassy of Heaven Church" that was offered to the individual as "church based insurance" through a group membership. The certificate falsely claimed to be valid from January 5, 2012 until January 5, 2013.
This prompted a Commerce Department investigation that uncovered "Embassy of Heaven Church" operated as insurers or self-insurers under the company name Mutual Assurance without proper licensure in the state of Minnesota. Through the website http://www.mutualassurance.org, "Embassy of Heaven Church" engaged in false and misleading advertising and other misrepresentations with regard to the solicitation of certificates or self-insurance. Auto insurance plans offered by "Embassy of Heaven Church" do not comply with the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act.
"Minnesotans using auto insurance offered through "Embassy of Heaven Church" are unwittingly in violation of state law for driving without proper insurance," said Commissioner Rothman. "We are urging all Minnesotans that have this insurance from "Embassy of Heaven Church" to contact the Department of Commerce and take immediate action to find a reputable auto insurance plan."
The U.S. Department of Justice describes "Embassy of Heaven Church" as follows:
A religious/antigovernment group in Oregon headed by "Paul Revere," the alias of a former computer analyst named Craig Douglas Fleshman. Fleshman started the "Embassy of Heaven Church" in 1987; it preaches a total separation from "earthly" government. Embassy members continue to make and sell bogus license plates and other paraphernalia."
Affinity fraud refers to a scam that preys upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly or professional groups. The perpetrators who promote affinity scams frequently are, or pretend to be, members of that group. Our interests, backgrounds, and other factors naturally lead us to affiliate with groups that serve our needs. Affinity fraud preys on that likeness and trust.
Consumers need to be wary and secure their own financial future by doing their homework before all financial agreements or investments.
Tips for Consumers
· Check with the Department of Commerce to see if an insurance company or agent is licensed in the state of Minnesota.
· Do not rely solely on the testimony of others, regardless of how well you know them.
· No matter how trustworthy the insurance agent or company appears to be, consumers need to check out everything. Do your homework and never agree to a policy if there are unanswered questions.
· Before buying insurance, make sure you select an insurance agent and company with whom you feel comfortable and who will be available to answer your questions. Signing up for auto insurance over the phone or the internet puts you at risk for losing money to a fraudulent enterprise.
· Get an agreement in writing and read it before you sign it.
· Don't make important decisions that impact your financial security alone. It is always best to consult the necessary experts, and involve trusted family members in all insurance related decisions
If you have questions or concerns about any insurance product or policy, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department's Consumer Response Team can be reached by phone at 651-296-2488 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints can also be sent by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.