District Attorney Larry Krasner on Wednesday announced charges against the owner and two employees of Ace Public Adjusters, 7930 Frankford Ave., for allegedly defrauding two dozen people out of about $300,000.
Those charged were owner Anthony J. Hoffman, 56, who is in federal custody on unrelated income tax charges, and employees Deborah L. Felix and Hartman J. Wismer, both 35.
Felix, Hoffman’s stepdaughter, was the office manager. Wismer is Felix’s fiance and was a public adjuster. Ace has closed, and the property is for sale.
Each defendant is charged with insurance fraud, theft by deception, forgery, conspiracy, theft by deception and bad checks.
“Anthony Hoffman, Deborah Felix and Hartman Wismer are the very reason why we have an economic crimes unit: so we can find and prosecute malicious businesses like Ace Public Adjusters that target, lie to and steal from vulnerable homeowners who just want to repair their homes and resume their lives,” Krasner said. “I’d like to thank Detective Donald Murtha and the assistant district attorneys who completed this investigation, our partners in the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for referring this case to us and the National Insurance Crime Bureau for supporting our investigation.”
The defendants signed contracts with complainants, many elderly, to represent them during their insurance claim process. Instead of properly overseeing the process and giving homeowners what was due to them, according to the DA’s office, Hoffman, Felix and Wismer stole nearly $300,000 for themselves.
“Our top priority is consumer protection,” state Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Our department’s action in this case makes sure this company and these individuals will not harm any other consumers, and sends a message that my department, in conjunction with partners such as the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, will act quickly and forcefully to protect consumers when violations of law are found.”
All the homeowners had valid insurance policies and expected to receive reimbursement from their insurance carrier for damages.
The DA’s office cited the Wilson family, whose home was insured by Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. In January 2018, their home was severely damaged by burst water pipes. The homeowner, aged 81, met with Hoffman and signed a contract for Ace to represent her claim. According to the agreement, Ace was to earn 15 percent of the settlement for assisting with the homeowner’s claim. When the homeowner died, her daughter became the executor of the estate.
From Feb. 13, 2018 to Nov. 27, 2018, Liberty issued seven checks totaling more than $127,000 to Ace as a settlement of the homeowner’s claim. According to the DA’s office, three of the checks were signed and cashed by Ace at a local check cashing agency. Ace did not give the estate’s executor her fair portion of each insurance check, the office said.
Instead, from July 19, 2018 to Dec. 1, 2018, Ace periodically issued 20 separate payments totaling only $90,774. In addition to the above payments, Ace issued Wilson three checks, totaling more than $13,000, that were returned for insufficient funds.
Upon completion of the investigation, the state Insurance Department revoked the licenses of Ace Public Adjusters. The department also took the firm’s required surety bond of $40,000 to partially reimburse the consumers who were harmed. ••