Remarks as prepared for delivery.
Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
Each year, an estimated $3 billion are stolen or defrauded from millions of American seniors. Through “grandparent scams,” fake prizes or even threats, criminals prey on some of the most vulnerable Americans to steal their hard-earned savings and their peace of mind.
And this threat is only growing. The Senate Aging Committee's Fraud Hotline received twice as many reports in 2016 as it received in 2015. The rise of new technologies has made it easier for criminals to coordinate their efforts and perpetrate their crimes.
But the Trump Administration is taking action. We will not let this crime continue to rise.
Last month, the Department ordered all 94 of our U.S. Attorneys’ offices to each designate an elder justice coordinator, who will customize our strategy to protect seniors in their district. This will ensure even greater cooperation between the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners.
The Trump administration is forming unprecedented law enforcement partnerships around the country and, indeed, around the world. These partnerships are already bearing fruit.
Today, the Department of Justice is announcing the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history.
With the help of our partners at all levels of government and in the private sector, we have charged more than 200 defendants for committing elder fraud schemes and brought civil actions against dozens more.
These defendants allegedly robbed more than one million Americans of more than half a billion dollars.
In the past month alone, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have filed cases against more than 40 defendants. These 40 defendants are responsible for a majority of those 1 million victims I mentioned, and they include charges against the transnational criminal organization highlighted on the map we have displayed.
Just yesterday the Postal Inspection Service executed 14 search warrants across America. The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch and our U.S. Attorneys are working closely with the postal inspectors on these investigations.
And as we speak, our partners with the Vancouver, Canada Police Department are executing dozens of search warrants as part of this enforcement action. These warrants are being carried out against members of transnational criminal organizations that have allegedly defrauded tens of thousands of Americans and people all over the world.
And so I want to thank the Postal Inspection Service, the FTC and its Consumer Sentinel database, the FBI and its Los Angeles field office, the Vancouver Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of New York and the Southern District of Iowa, our elder justice coordinators, and all of our state, local, and international partners who helped make this historic achievement possible.
Thank you to Derek Schmidt, Kansas Attorney General and President of the National Association of Attorneys General for participating in this action and representing our state Attorneys General, who play a vital role in this effort.
And thank you to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, especially to my good friends Senators Grassley and Collins. They have a real passion for this issue and they have helped raise awareness about it.
I also want to thank Deborah Cox-Rausch, director of Senior Corps, a federal agency that coordinates the work of hundreds of thousands of senior citizen volunteers across the country. Senior Corps has helped get the word out about the threat of fraud schemes to our seniors, and I believe that helps prevent crime.
That’s why I hope that no victim of fraud feels ashamed. This can happen to anyone. Several members of my staff have told me about their grandparents being targeted by fraudsters. In fact, just this past week, one of my senior staffers was in a meeting with me when she got a call from her grandmother, who had just received a phone call from a fraudster.
We need to spread the word about this. So, please, if you or someone you know was victimized by an elder fraud scheme, please report it to the FTC. It might just give us the tip we need to put criminals in jail—and to protect other seniors.
We are joined here today by several Americans who have had the courage to step forward and share their stories of being victimized by fraudsters. They’ve come a long way to be here—and I want to thank them for that and for sharing their experiences and insights.
We’ll hear one of those stories now from Angela Stancik of Houston, Texas.