Elder Fraud Cases Are a Priority Nationally and Locally for the Justice Department
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that as part of the Elder Fraud Initiative launched by the Department of Justice, he has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward as the Elder Fraud Coordinator for the District of Alaska.
The District of Alaska has prosecuted several defendants targeting aging and vulnerable victims including most recently United States v. Floyd Jay Mann prosecuted by AUSA Steward. Mann was sentenced in December to 10 years in prison for defrauding more than 15 victims in Dillingham, Alaska. Mann’s first victim in that case was an elderly man dying of cancer. Mann convinced the elderly victim that he was due to receive a multi-million dollar lawsuit settlement from a pharmaceutical company. Mann falsely told the victim he needed help paying court costs and medical bills before the settlement would be released. Mann led the elderly victim to believe he would share millions of dollars of his settlement if the elderly victim helped him cover costs. The elderly victim gave his life savings and monthly social security payments to help Mann. The elderly victim died of cancer waiting for the payout promised. Mann moved on to the elderly victim’s friends and family in Dillingham targeting them with the same scheme. Mann obtained almost $3 million from his fraudulent scheme. Several victims lost homes and retirement savings.
As part of the Elder Fraud Initiative, AUSA Steward has coordinated with the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspectors, the State of Alaska Office of Elder Fraud and Assistance, and Senior Corps to identify cases appropriate for prosecution and to coordinate outreach to vulnerable groups.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced yesterday that he has made combatting Elder Fraud a priority for the Department of Justice. Attorney General Sessions was joined in the announcement yesterday by FBI Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich; Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell; FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen; and Kansas Attorney General and President of the National Association of Attorneys General Derek Schmidt.
“The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic,” said Attorney General Sessions. “When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains. Today is only the beginning. I have directed Department prosecutors to coordinate with both domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors.”
With this Initiative, the Justice Department is targeting schemes such as the following:
- “Lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;
- “Grandparent scams,” which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
- “Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
- “IRS imposter schemes,” which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes;
- “Guardianship schemes,” which siphon seniors’ financial resources into the bank accounts of deceitful relatives or guardians.
- “Advance Fee Schemes,” which promise big payouts in the future if victims provide financial assistance up front.
These cases illustrate how an elderly American can lose his or her life savings to a duplicitous relative, guardian, or stranger who gains the victim’s trust. The devastating effects these cases have on victims and their families, both financially and psychologically, make prosecuting elder fraud a key Department priority.
Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office of Victims of Crime, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.