Justice Department Coordinates Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep Of More Than 250 Defendants
Sweep included efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Today in Washington, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced today the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. The cases involve more than two hundred and fifty defendants from around the globe who victimized more than a million Americans, most of whom were elderly. The cases include criminal, civil, and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts. Of the defendants, 200 were charged criminally. In each case, offenders engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors. In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused losses of more than half a billion dollars. The Department coordinated its announcement with the FTC and state Attorneys General, who independently filed numerous cases targeting elder frauds within the sweep period.
Attorney General Sessions was joined in the announcement 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. “Today’s actions send a clear message: we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are. 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.”
The Eastern District of Kentucky is no stranger to the types of scams that prey on our elderly population. United States Attorney Robert M. Duncan, Jr., held a Facebook Live event earlier today, to discuss how elder abuse has affected Kentuckians. He spoke about the most prevalent schemes involving elder financial exploitation, such as:
- “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.
Many of 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.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky has prosecuted criminals for taking advantage of seniors, including by convicting the owner of a personal care home for unlawfully misappropriating his clients’ social security money, suing a nursing home for providing little or no care to its patients, and obtaining a liability judgment against an optometrist for providing unnecessary health care to patients at several nursing homes for the purpose of billing the federal government for payment for these services. . “Our Office is a committed partner in this effort and we have used both civil and criminal enforcement tools to combat this ever-growing problem,” said United States Attorney Duncan. “Enforcement actions are vital; but prevention efforts are also critical to protecting this vulnerable community. Family members and friends of elderly individuals must be vigilant in protecting those close to them and should not hesitate to contact enforcement authorities if they suspect their loved ones are being victimized. Additionally, regardless of circumstance, everyone should be wary of responding to unsolicited communications from strangers offering promises of money, companionship, and assistance. If the offer seems too good to be true, it often times is.”
In efforts to help combat this problem, the United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Kentucky and Western District of Kentucky, along with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, federal and state law enforcement agencies, and state agencies with jurisdiction over senior care-related issues have joined together to form the Kentucky Elder Justice Task Force. This group of highly motivated enforcement partners meets frequently to share information, discuss pressing issues, and cultivate plans to protect the senior citizens of Kentucky. “Going forward, this collaboration will be an essential enforcement tool and a strong line of defense for elderly individuals in our Commonwealth,” explained United States Attorney Duncan.
If you or anyone you know has been victimized due to age, these 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.