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In his rulings to date, the federal judge hearing the civil cases has agreed with Caramadre's contention that he was doing what the fine print allowed.The secret to Caramadre's scheme can be glimpsed in a 2006 brochure for the ING Golden Select Variable Annuity.
The woman sits next to a computer, sporting a stylish haircut and wire-framed glasses.Number 18 came to fruition, he says, when a sizeable segment of the life insurance industry ignored centuries of experience and commonsense in a heated competition for market share.Federal prosecutors in Rhode Island and insurance companies paint a very different picture of Caramadre: They say he's an unscrupulous con artist who engaged in identity theft, conspiracy and two different kinds of fraud.Taking out an insurance policy on a friend or neighbor and killing them? Taking out a life insurance policy that gambles your neighbor will die soon, even without your help, also crosses the line.Today, it is well-established law that one must have what is called an "insurable interest" before purchasing an insurance policy on someone else's life.With this guarantee, if the market crashes — but you die before your investment recovers — your beneficiary still gets a lump sum equal to either the death benefit or the value of the investments in your account, whichever is greater.
The target audience for brochures like that of ING's are people nearing retirement with a nest egg to safeguard and perhaps grow a bit. In 2011, as the first wave of baby boomers began to retire, there were more than 40 million people age 65 or over.Pro Publica has taken a close look at the Caramadre case because it offers a window into a larger issue: The transformation of the life insurance industry away from its traditional business of insuring lives to peddling complex financial products. Particularly during the lead up to the financial crisis, companies wrote billions worth of contracts that now imperil their financial health.In a series of detailed interviews, Caramadre said the companies designed the rules; all he did was exploit them.A man with graying hair and an open collared shirt, presumably her husband, is draped over her in a casual loving way.Images of happy vibrant seniors enjoying their golden years together — frolicking on the beach, laughing in chinos next to a gleaming classic car, enjoying the company of grandkids — populate the sales material for life insurance's hottest product — the variable annuity.He calls these insights his "creations," and he numbers them. For example, there was number four, which involved an office superstore coupon he parlayed into enough nearly free office furniture to fill a three-car garage.