Aug. 07–Federal prosecutors have expanded the charges pending against one-time rising Hartford insurance broker Earl O’Garro, who now is accused of stealing insurance premiums from the city, lying on a state loan application and defrauding other insurance companies.
The superseding indictment against O’Garro, former owner and president of wholesale broker Hybrid Insurance, was made public by the U.S. Attorney’s office Thursday. It charges him, in two counts of wire fraud and one of mail fraud, with overstating his business income in an application for a $500,000 state business assistance loan and defrauding a variety of other insurers and clients — including the City of Hartford — of about $1.3 million in insurance premiums.
O’Garro denies wrongdoing. During a recent hearing in U.S District Court in Hartford, he said he intends to take his case to trial.
Until his personal and business finances began unraveling about two years, O’Garro was viewed as something of a hard-driving, 30-something insurance prodigy in a city built on insurance. Hybrid had been growing rapidly and he claimed to be collecting a salary in the high six-figure range. He drove expensive cars, wore expensive suits and could be found at some of the city’s pricier watering holes.
But records publicly available from state insurance regulators show that, by late spring 2013, Hybrid — and O’Garro — were dangerously overextended. The insurance records and the indictment suggest that O’Garro was frantically trying to raise new money in an effort to salvage policies that were arranged by Hybrid and in danger of cancellation because of his failure to make premium payments.
Specifically, he is accused of defrauding the state by overstating the value of Hybrid’s assets when applying for a $500,000 low-interest loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. At the time, O’Garro was in danger of defaulting — and ultimately did default — on a $126,000 state loan and grant package.
O’Garro also is accused of concocting an elaborate ruse in which he used a phony Internet address and four dummy companies to trick a company that finances insurance premiums into lending him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Although the alleged scheme is not detailed in the federal indictment, publicly available records collected by state insurance regulators — as well as other court records — show that O’Garro hired an Internet design company to create a phony email address that purported to belong to an underwriter for the insurer AmTrust North America.
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