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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, joined national, state, local, and Tribal leaders in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2024. Since 2006, WEAAD has been commemorated to promote awareness and increase understanding of the many forms of elder abuse as well as the resources available to those at risk.

“Seniors in our community are among the most likely to be targeted by fraud, false billing scams, and abuse. Financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and is estimated to cost older adults more than $23 billion every year,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Combatting elder fraud and abuse is a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice, and our law enforcement partners. As part of our elder justice initiative, my office has expanded our health care fraud practice and focused on holding accountable medical providers who put profits before their obligations to patient care and safety. Everyone can protect their loved ones and the community by reporting instances of elder abuse when you see it.”   

Elder abuse is an act that knowingly, intentionally, or negligently causes or creates a serious risk of harm to an older person by a family member, caregiver, or other person in a trust relationship. Such harm may be financial, physical, sexual, or psychological. The Justice Department maintains a variety of programs and initiatives to combat elder abuse.

The Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force marshals federal and state agencies working collaboratively to investigate and prosecute foreign-based schemes that target older Americans. In addition to aggressively investigating the individuals, organizations, and networks responsible for these crimes, this initiative provides the public with information to guard against both traditional scams, like tech support fraud, as well as trending schemes, such as romance scams.

Using one scam to perpetrate or conceal another, some fraudsters rely on money mules to move the proceeds of their illegal activity. Preying on the good will or financial vulnerability of their targets, scammers recruit people, many times older victims, to participate in schemes to move money in ways that avoid notice. The Money Mule Initiative identifies and addresses money mule activity to disrupt these fraud schemes and helps people to recognize and avoid participation in perpetuating fraud.

To help older individuals and their families identify and avoid fraudulent activity, the Justice Department provides Senior Scam Alerts with information about the tactics used in specific schemes. For example, in Social Security Administration Impostor Schemes, scammers impersonate government employees and falsely report suspicious activity to request that potential victims provide their Social Security numbers for confirmation. In Tech Support scams, fraudsters contact victims, sometimes through internet pop-up messages, to warn about non-existent computer problems, ask that the victim give them remote access to their computer to identify a fake problem, and then demand large sums of money for unnecessary services. In Lottery scams, telemarketers falsely notify victims that they have won a sweepstakes and tell them they must first pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes before they can claim their prizes.

To learn more about the Justice Department’s elder justice efforts please visit the Elder Justice Initiative page.

The U.S Attorney’s Office continues to work with federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute elder abuse crimes. Additionally, the Office consistently works with courageous whistleblowers who provide vital information to protect patients and the community from fraud and abuse that targets the elderly.

Representative examples of cases protecting elder members of our community prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in 2023 and 2024 include the following:

  • In March 2024, Physician Edward William Salko, D.O., agreed to pay $700,000 to resolve allegations that they participated in a kick-back scheme to bill Medicare for medically unnecessary medical equipment and diagnostic laboratory testing.
  • In February 2024, Thomas Andrew Webster, M.D., pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept kickbacks in connection with a fraudulent telemarketing and medical supply scheme throughout Washington and in other states.
  • In January of 2024, Physician Daniel Case has agreed to pay $95,000 to resolve allegations that he participated in a kick-back scheme and ordered medically unnecessary durable medical equipment that Case caused to be billed to Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health care programs.
  • In November of 2023, Xander Lee Ostenberg was sentenced to 5 years in prison for an assault that included a violent physical attack against two Kalispel Tribal elders. During the assault, Ostenberg hit one elder in the head causing him to fall to the ground and lose consciousness. Ostenberg then turned to attack another elder, knocking him to the ground, pulling out some of the elder’s hair, and began choking the Tribal elder.
  • In August of 2023, Lincare Holdings, Inc., agreed to pay $29 million and perform extensive corrective actions to resolve allegations that it fraudulently overbilled Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans for oxygen equipment and wrongfully collected co-pays from elderly beneficiaries on fixed incomes and with limited means.

U.S. Attorney Waldref has recorded this message about how we can all protect ourselves and our loved ones from scams targeting the elderly.  

To report elder fraud, contact the dedicated National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 or 1-833-372-8311 and visit the FBI’s IC3 Elder Fraud Complaint Center at IC3.gov.

Contact

Robert Curry 

Public Affairs Specialist 

USAWAE.Media@usdoj.gov 

Updated June 10, 2024

Topic
Elder Justice