A Port Lavaca Farmers Insurance agent and his wife were arrested Wednesday morning on fraud and forgery charges almost two years after customers started asking questions about their payments.
Paul Michael Orta, 36, and Marisa Renee Orta, 37, were taken into custody on warrants charging them with forgery of a financial instrument and misapplication of fiduciary property of financial funds between $2,500 and $30,000.
Although they were each arrested on two charges, the Ortas are accused of misappropriating the payments of several customers, so multiple counts of the charges are likely, said Chief Deputy Johnny Krause, of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Calls to Orta’s office were not returned on Wednesday.
Krause said an investigation into the agency was sparked by customer complaints made to the Texas Department of Insurance and the sheriff’s office.
“We had some customers come in with questions about their insurance policies being mishandled,” he said.
The investigation reportedly revealed that the Ortas forged electronic signatures to complete transactions their customers were unaware of, Krause said. Those transactions resulted in misappropriated premium payments.
“There is always an electronic trail and paper trail, and because they’re so regulated, the insurance agency has to keep these documents,” he said. “Once they (the investigators) start digging in, they can find where it is misappropriated.”
Krause confirmed that the agent’s wife worked at his Farmers branch, though her job title was not available. No other employees at the agency were arrested, he said.
According to Paul Michael Orta’s profile on the Farmers Insurance website, he has spent more than two years with the company and serves the Port Lavaca, Seadrift, Palacios, Port O’Connor and Tivoli communities. The Farmers Insurance Paul Michael Orta Agency is at 618 North Virginia St.
The Texas Department of Insurance could not comment about the arrests or investigation when reached late Wednesday, but Orta’s licenses are still active, according to its website.
Because misappropriated payments were discovered for several customers, more findings are possible, Krause said.