News: 2009 Press Release
For Release: December 14, 2009
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Insurance Commissioner Poizner Announces Arrest, Extradition of Man from Philippines Wanted on Elder Abuse Charges
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today announced that Donald Martin Steffensen, 70, of Saint George, Utah, has been arrested by California Department of Insurance (CDI) investigators and members of the Madera County District Attorney's Office after he was returned to the United States from the Republic of the Philippines to face 38 felony counts of grand theft and financial elder abuse.
"Anyone who preys on the elderly deserves to be tracked down, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Commissioner Poizner said. "I'm proud my Department stayed on the case and we got a fugitive from justice back on our shores for prosecution."
Steffensen had been licensed as a non-residence life insurance agent but his license was revoked in Aug. 2006 after a CDI investigation revealed that his unethical investment advice had caused a partially disabled senior citizen to lose $165,000.
Subsequent to the revocation, CDI learned that Steffensen had used his position of trust as a life agent for a senior citizen (now deceased) to embezzle and convert for his own use more than $270,000 from an annuity owned by the senior. This crime occurred from 2002 to 2005 and some of the annuity distributions were allegedly stolen by Steffensen after his victim had passed away.
The Madera County District Attorney filed 38 felony counts of grand theft and financial elder abuse against Steffensen in April 2008.
Steffensen, who is a U.S. citizen, fled the country prior to the issuance of an arrest warrant and was known to be living with his family in the Republic of the Philippines. In 2008, CDI began working with the U.S. State Department to have Steffensen deported. Philippine authorities agreed to deport Steffensen after determining that he illegally entered the country. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration, U.S. Customs, the Los Angeles Police Dept. at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Madera County District Attorney's office assisted CDI with its efforts to bring Steffensen back to the U.S. to face charges.
Accompanied by members of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration, Steffensen arrived at LAX on Dec. 12. Steffensen was taken into custody by CDI investigators and the Madera County District Attorney's office and immediately transported to Madera County Jail where he will be arraigned Dec. 15. Bail has been set at $300,000.
Commissioner Poizner oversees 16 CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Approximately 1,900 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance's enforcement division since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 – more arrests than have been made during any other two year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
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