Susan Varela Sues Argus Fire & Casualty Insurance, Claims Company Canned Her for Blowing Whistle on Shady Operations

Categories: Crime
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Have Argus home fire insurance? You might want to rethink that.
Anyone who has ever insured anything -- a car, a house, or, if you're J.Lo, a sumptuously rotund rump -- knows that insurance companies are about as trustworthy as automobile salesmen: You had better read the fine print lest the deal come back to kick you in the junk.

As an adjuster for North Miami Beach-based Argus Fire & Casualty Insurance Company, Susan Varela knew this better than anyone. But 32 years in the industry didn't keep her from getting burned by her former employer.

In a lawsuit filed last September, Varela claims that Argus fired her for blowing the whistle on the company's practice of inventing reasons to deny or delay legitimate insurance claims. She claims that none other than Argus CEO and part owner Richard Parrillo Jr. "ordered [her] to... delay in the payment of legitimate claims."

She even accuses Parrillo of creating "a fraudulent reinsurance scheme involving Hurricane Wilma" in which Argus lumped unrelated damages into Wilma claims in order to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars from other companies. Parrillo could not be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Varela's complaints about that "scam" were ignored to such an extent that she had a nervous breakdown. Then, last March, Argus executives accused Varela of overpaying on customer's insurance claims. The affront allegedly sent Varela into near cardiac arrest: The lawsuit claims she "collapsed in the work place" and was hospitalized for five days.

Finally, the legal complaint continues, in late March an Argus executive took Varela out to lunch and told her she was fired.

Varela's lawsuit insists she was fired over her objections to Argus's "wrongful insurance practices" and her "refusals to follow directives... in violation of laws." If true, that would break a Florida law protecting whistle-blowers. But Charles Grimsley, chief legal officer at Argus, says Varela's lawsuit is bogus.

"We believe it to be unfounded," he says. "Ms. Varela is your classic disgruntled employee."

Varela and her lawyer refused to speak with Riptide, but others in the insurance industry say shadiness abounds.

"None of it surprises me," says attorney Ken Duboff, who has more than 60 lawsuits pending against Argus alone. "But not just because it's Argus. The nature of the insurance industry is that way. They don't go out looking for coverage. They look for ways to deny coverage."

In fact, by some measures, Argus is one of the more honest insurance companies in South Florida, he says.

If that ain't a kick in the junk, we don't know what is.

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Natalia Cardona
Natalia Cardona

Insurance companies have a bad rep from people that get denied. Of course they are going to be upset, they expected to get paid. However they do not read what they are signing, therefore they do not know the rules of the contract they have just agreed to. You do not hear the people that got paid complaining.


I can assure you that many of the insurance carriers in Miami that only write insurance in the three most fraudelent counties in the state, none to mention by name all believe in the same tactic: deny, delay and don't pay the triple D's. The larger carriers (well-known) do not waste the efforts on debating issues that are not worthy of debate. Plain and simple, fraud is an enemy and a friend of many of the residents of the Tri-County Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach area. If an insured, mind you who pays his/her monthly premium, is driving the vehicle he/she insures is involved in an auto accident, the insurance carrier should pay. I hope the Department of Insurance does away with Personal Injury Protection- the BIGGEST fraudelent portion of the state of Florida Insurance.If an employee, previous or not previous employee, is making such claim it should be investigated. Regardless, if it is just an allegation, the truth will come out....

Hilal B.
Hilal B.

Goal of any insurance is bringing back the insured to the same condition the were in before....that's what exactly Argus does. Issues being brought out by an x employee, and why she became an x employee to begin with. Also until she was no longer employed there how come she never mentioned of anything and now makes this up after being no longer employed there is another question. Investigation, expectations from insureds to comply with post loss duties are already in the policy. Once coverage investigation is completed any ensuing damage caused by covered peril an/or unless excluded is covered and paid for. Argus does have plenty of money to take care of their insureds and insureds are taken care of as long coverage is inline and claim is free of any fraud and ensuing damages are due to any covered peril and /or unless excluded.


Either you are a biased party or you are just not understanding what Argus is and has been doing.

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