Department of Justice Charges Unprecedented Number of Elder Fraud Defendants Nationwide and Launches Hotline
New Haven, Conn. – United States Attorney John H. Durham joined Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale today in announcing the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. This year, prosecutors charged more than 400 defendants, far surpassing the 260 defendants charged in cases as part of last year’s sweep. In each case, offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors. In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused alleged losses of over a billion dollars.
“Americans are fed up with the constant barrage of scams that maliciously target the elderly and other vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “This year, the Department of Justice prosecuted more than 400 defendants, whose schemes totaled more than a billion dollars. I want to thank the men and women of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which coordinated this effort, and all those in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and Criminal Division who worked tirelessly to bring these cases. The Department is committed to stopping the full range of criminal activities that exploit America’s seniors.”
Elder Fraud Hotline
Attorney General Barr also announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. The Hotline will be staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers. Case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed. When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller. The Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).
Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force
The Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force prosecuted more than one quarter of the defendants charged as part of the announced sweep. Established in June 2019, the Strike Force is composed of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas), along with FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel. Prosecutors in Strike Force districts brought cases against more than 140 sweep defendants. FBI and the Postal Inspection Service served as lead agencies in the Strike Force and committed substantial investigative resources to pursuing elder fraud cases as part of Strike Force efforts. The Strike Force has held dozens of meetings with industry, victim groups, and law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels to identify the most harmful schemes victimizing American seniors and to bolster preventive measures against further losses.
For the second year, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners also took comprehensive action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud. Generally, perpetrators use a “money mule” to transfer fraud proceeds from a victim to ringleaders of fraud schemes who often reside in other countries. Some of these money mules act unwittingly, and intervention can effectively end their involvement in the fraud. The FBI and the Postal Inspection Service took action against over 600 alleged money mules nationwide by conducting interviews, issuing warning letters, and bringing civil and criminal cases. Agents and prosecutors in more than 85 federal district participated in this effort to halt the money flow from victim to fraudster. These actions against money mules were in addition to the criminal and civil cases announced as part of this year’s elder fraud sweep.
These outreach efforts have helped to prevent seniors from falling prey to scams and have frustrated offenders’ efforts to obtain even more money from vulnerable elders.
The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.