Elderly upstate farmers collect millions in fraud suit

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ROCHESTER (WROC) – An egg-farming family in Allegany County is receiving a $3.2 million award after they said they were swindled by an AXA financial broker. According to the lawyers on the case, this is believed to be the largest arbitration award given in Upstate New York.

Shirley Kerwin said she had a similar experience to the Fitzpatrick’s.

The Fitzpatrick’s and Shirley Kerwin were long-time customers of AXA. They said everything was going smoothly until Francesco Puccio became their broker. Both parties said Puccio sold them large annuities and life insurance policies- which they say they weren’t aware of.

Kerwin said after her husband died was when things went south.

“I really don’t understand it, so I told him I trusted him, I trust what you’re telling me,” Kerwin said.

Kerwin said when she realized she was being played, it was too late.

“He came to my house and told me my money was all gone and that’s when I almost hit the floor.”

She said Puccio blamed her for loaning too much money to her brother- who had been suffering from cancer at the time. Kerwin said she knew that wasn’t right but when she contacted AXA about it she was told there was no record of her ever being a client.

Her lawyer Jason Kane said he’s personally seen all the documents proving she is.

“Other than just not looking in the right place or shocking laziness I have no idea how AXA could’ve not known that Shirley Kerwin was their client,” Kane said.

Kane represented both victims and deals with these types of cases all the time- but he said this shocked him.

“I’ve never seen such brazen misconduct from a broker. This is a man who couldn’t pay his bills and was willing to do anything to do that.”

Kane said he believes the large annuities and life insurance plans Puccio was selling to elderly people should’ve been a red flag in the AXA office. He said he believes there are many more AXA victims out there and encourages anyone who believes they may be one to reach out to a lawyer.

He said he doesn’t know of any other victims for certain at this time.

Kane also said to be vigilant of who you’re doing business with and who you’re trusting with your finances. He recommends checking broker websites to make sure yours is legitimate.

An AXA spokesperson said in a statement:

The financial professional who was involved in this matter has not been affiliated with the company for more than five years,” said an AXA spokesperson. “We do not condone any actions by this individual which were inconsistent with our policies and values. We remain committed to serving our clients with integrity.  We have strict policies governing relationships with affiliated financial professionals.  This individual did not have a criminal record during the time he was affiliated with the Company.“

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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