The CEO behind a "healthcare discount" card company the Houston Press investigated in 2009 has been charged with fraud in Florida, with federal prosecutors accusing him of running a 12-year scheme that defrauded 150 investors out of $19 million.
As Broward County's Sun-Sentinel reported September 25, a judge called Daniel Joseph Touizer a "significant economic danger to the community," and ordered that he be held without bail. If convicted, Touizer faces 14 to 17 years in prison.
Touizer, 44, a dual American and Canadian citizen living in Florida, ran a company called Cinergy Health that purported to offer individuals and families great discounts on health care, but soon caught the attention of state insurance regulators, who found that the company's agents used "telephone scripts that contain language that is untruthful and misleading."
According to an FBI agent's affidavit in the federal criminal complaint, Touizer falsely told Cinergy's investors between 2005 and 2010 that the company was licensed to sell "insurance products" in all 50 states. The affidavit alleges that, from 2010 to 2011, "75 percent of Cinergy's revenues went toward the company's payroll," and that a review of the company's bank records "revealed that Touizer commingled and used a large majority of the company's assets with funds maintained in his personal bank accounts."
The funds were also allegedly commingled with the fruits of other Touizer-run investment schemes, including a "marketer and distributor of rare and valuable 'colored' gems."
We certainly hope federal authorities have all their ducks in a row, because, as we found when we questioned some of the claims made in Cinergy advertisements, we incurred the wrath of Touizer's lawyers and his then-public relations handler, Ronn Torossian, who adamantly stated he wasn't Cinergy's spokesman, he was merely the dude whose name was on press releases and whom reporters were supposed to call with questions. Torossian's unique approach to public relations was to immediately request that he answer our questions off the record.
Torossian also warned us in an email to "watch your words and actions very careful," and demanded that we let him review our sources prior to publication.
We also heard from a Cinergy lawyer, who wrote a letter admonishing that "a great potential for harm exists to the present and future business endeavors, professional and personal reputation of Mr. Daniel Touizer in the careless, let alone malicious, dissemination of false information or innuendo."
So we certainly hope that United States Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer had this in mind when he wrote, in his detention order, that "the evidence of Touizer's guilt is very strong, as Touizer has tacitly acknowledged by telling an associate [after an FBI search of his offices] that he may 'do a couple of years in prison.'"
Seltzer also wrote that Touizer's "actions appear to be part of a deliberate, sophisticated, and more than decade-long scheme that continued to the time of his arrest."
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Federal agents in mid-August 2017 executed search warrants on Touizer's offices and a public storage space, obtaining "95 boxes of evidence and over 100 hard drives and other pieces of electronic storage devices." Included in this cache was a "Phone Creed" for sales agents, which is a reworking of the U.S. Marine Corps' "Rifleman's Creed." It reads in part:
"This is my phone. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My phone is my best friend. It is my life, I must master it as I must master my life.
"My phone is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother.
Before God, I swear this creed. My phone and I are universal soldiers. We are the masters of our check writers. We are the saviors of my life."
We would also be remiss if we didn't point out that Erika Schwartz, who became Cinergy's medical director in 2009, once appeared on Houston physician and gay-hater Steve Hotze's radio show, saying that breast cancer is one of many "diseases that have been created to serve the big drug [companies.]"
We reached out to Touizer's attorneys and will update this story should they choose to respond.