U.S. Attorney Liu Announces Initiative to Combat Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation
Initiative is Part of Nationwide Effort Led by U.S. Department of Justice
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is launching an Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Initiative to expand its response to criminal and civil violations targeting older adults, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu announced today.
The establishment of this initiative will enable the U.S. Attorney’s Office to further develop and coordinate its prosecution of these cases and enhance its overall support of older victims. The team will consist of experienced prosecutors and victim advocates from across the Office, to include the Superior Court, Criminal, and Civil Divisions as well as the Victim Witness Assistance Unit. The work coordinated through this initiative will reach victims of both local and federal offenses in the District of Columbia and across the country who have been affected by elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. This initiative is part of a larger effort by the Department of Justice to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation.
“We must do everything we can to protect our older citizens from those predators who target them for physical, emotional and financial harm,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “This initiative sharpens our focus on this important mission. By bringing together all of those in our office who work on these issues in court and in the community, we hope to identify ways that we can better serve our vulnerable older adults and prevent them from becoming victims of crimes and abuse.”
The initiative will coordinate and combine the work that is already being done throughout the Office on behalf of older victims. Many components of the Office work on such matters, and each will designate a representative to support the initiative’s mission to develop uniform strategies and best practices, track data and cases, share resources, enhance support of older victims, and facilitate further outreach with community and agency partners.
Nationally, the 2017 Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act mandated that each U.S. Attorney designate an Elder Justice Coordinator to serve as legal counsel on matters relating to elder abuse, assist with prosecution of elder abuse cases, conduct public outreach relating to elder abuse, and coordinate data collection. U.S. Attorney Liu has selected Sarah McClellan, a senior prosecutor and the chief of the Office’s Victim Witness Assistance Unit, to serve in that position for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office works with the Metropolitan Police Department, District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General, the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and other law enforcement partners on investigations of crimes targeting older victims. In launching the initiative, the Office hopes to build on its work successfully prosecuting such cases.
In one recent matter, for example, a former personal banker pled guilty to stealing money from an 88-year-old woman by ordering a debit card for his own use and linking it to her account. He made 17 unauthorized transactions, totaling more than $4,000. In a similar case, another bank manager pled guilty to stealing more than $9,000 from the bank accounts of customers, including senior citizens, by issuing debit cards or changing PIN numbers linked to their bank accounts. In a third case, a woman pled guilty to using a stolen debit card to steal more than $25,000 from the checking and savings account of a 70-year-old man who was in failing health. All three defendants were ordered by the Court to pay full restitution as part of their sentences.
In another case last year, the office’s Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section prosecuted a woman who carried out a pair of attacks against her 64-year-old ex-boyfriend, including one with a knife and one with sulfuric acid. The defendant pled guilty to charges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The victim suffered devastating injuries, including lifelong disfigurement – and spent nearly a month in a hospital burn unit.
The Office’s Civil Division will pursue cases related to nursing home fraud and abuse, including quality of care cases and all forms of billing abuses. The Civil Division will collaborate with D.C. government agencies associated with elder care and oversight and the D.C. Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). In addition, the Civil Division plans to work with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify elder financial abuse.
In addition, the Office will continue its extensive community outreach efforts in hopes of increasing awareness to protect seniors. The Office regularly offers two important but distinctly different senior seminars in partnership with other agencies: “Financial Crimes Against Seniors” and “Elder Abuse and Exploitation of the Elderly.” Prosecutors and community outreach specialists present these seminars in senior dwellings and at senior programs throughout the District of Columbia. Participants are provided with resources about where they can find help in the event they become victims of financial scams, exploitation, or abuse.
These efforts are part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative, a multi-faceted nationwide program to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target senior citizens. According to the Justice Department, each year, an estimated $3 billion is stolen or defrauded from millions of American seniors. Through “grandparent scams,” fake prizes, romance scams, fraudulent IRS refunds, and even outright extortion, criminals try to exploit some of the most vulnerable Americans and steal their life’s savings.
With approximately 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, the population of potential targets continues to grow. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of Americans over 65 years of age will increase to 83.7 million in 2050, nearly double the estimated population of 43.1 million as of the most recent census.
More information about the Department of Justice’s elder justice efforts can be found on its Elder Justice Website at https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice