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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 4, 2022

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland Joins the Justice Department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to Protect Older Americans

Baltimore, Maryland – United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron announced today that as part of the Office’s continuing efforts to protect older adults and to bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office is joining the Justice Department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, as one of 14 additional U.S. Attorney’s Offices.

Since 2019, current Strike Force members — including the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations — have brought successful cases against the largest and most harmful global elder fraud schemes and worked with foreign law enforcement to disrupt criminal enterprises, disable their infrastructure and bring perpetrators to justice.  Expansion of the Strike Force will help to coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat sophisticated fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact older adults.  The expansion will increase the total number of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices comprising the Strike Force from six to 20, including Maryland and all of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the states of California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New York.

“Targeting vulnerable victims is unconscionable,” said Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. “The Maryland Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will use every resource available to protect victims and prosecute those who would abuse them.”

“We are intensifying our efforts nationwide to protect older adults, including by more than tripling the number of U.S. Attorneys’ offices participating in our Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force dedicated to disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting foreign-based fraud schemes that target American seniors,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This expansion builds on the Justice Department’s existing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from older adults, including by returning those funds to the victims where possible.”

The Strike Force expansion will further enhance the Department’s existing efforts to protect older adults from fraud and exploitation.  During the period from September 2021 to September 2022, Department personnel and its law enforcement partners pursued approximately 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants, both bringing new cases and advancing those previously charged.  The matters tackled by the Department and its partners ranged from mass-marketing scams that impacted thousands of victims to bad actors scamming their neighbors. Substantial efforts were also made over the last year to return money to fraud victims.

The Department also highlighted other efforts, including success in returning money to victims and efforts to combat grandparent scams.  In the past year, the Department has notified over 550,000 people that they may be eligible for payments.  Notifications were made to consumers whose information was sold by one of three data companies prosecuted by the Department and were later victims of advance fee scams involving “sweepstakes” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in return for a fee.  More than 160,000 of those victims cashed checks totaling $62 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks.  

In Maryland, defendant Oluwaseyi Akinyemi was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of $486,119.07 to his victims in a social media advanced fee scheme that targeted senior victims.  Akinyemi and at least one co-conspirator targeted elderly victims on social media, representing themselves as agents of both real and fictitious government agencies and offering victims non-existent financial rewards if the victims first sent cash, money orders, or gift cards to cover associated “taxes and fees.”  Believing that they would receive a financial reward, the victims sent cash, money orders, gift cards, and other valuable items through the mail to Akinyemi who lived in Landover, Maryland at the time. 

The Justice Department also notified consumers who paid fraudsters perpetrating person-in-need scams and job scams via Western Union.  In the past year, the Department has identified and contacted over 300,000 consumers who may be eligible for remission.  Since March of 2020 more than 148,000 victims have received more than $366 million as a result of a 2017 criminal resolution with Western Union for the company’s willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and its aiding and abetting of wire fraud.

Over the past year, the Department pursued cases against the perpetrators of “grandparent scams,” otherwise known as “person-in-need scams.” These scams typically begin when a fraudster, often based overseas, contacts an older adult and poses as either a grandchild, other family member or someone calling on behalf of a family member. Call recipients are told that their family member is in jeopardy and is urgently in need of money.  When recently sentencing one of eight perpetrators of a grandparent scam indicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal judge described such scams “heartbreakingly evil.”  The Department is working with government partners and others to raise awareness about these schemes.

This past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has prosecuted several defendants participating in far-reaching schemes that aim to defraud elderly victims.  For example, two defendants pleaded guilty to defrauding more than 70 elderly victims of more than $2.4 million in a “Grandparent Scam.”  In addition, two defendants in Maryland were sentenced to federal prison in connection with a romance scam.  Brothers David and Lesley Annor were sentenced to three years and to 20 months in federal prison, respectively, for conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a romance scheme in which elderly and isolated victims were induced to send money to conspirators.  The Annors received and laundered the payments from the victims.  In addition to jail time, the Annors were also ordered to pay $6,278,250 in restitution to the victims. 

As part of the efforts to prevent elder fraud, members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office engaged in outreach to the community and to industry to raise awareness about scams and exploitation and how to keep from becoming a victim.  This year, U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron participated in a tele-town hall with AARP on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to discuss fraud schemes targeting seniors and how to avoid them, including resources for reporting fraud.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office also participated in meetings at senior housing communities and events for senior citizens, senior days at minor league baseball games, and other events to educate seniors and their families on how to spot and avoid financial scams.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office also participated in a presentation with the Maryland Banker’s Association on how banks can become involved in preventing and disrupting fraud schemes targeting seniors.  Member of the office also presented at the Maryland State Bar Association’s annual meeting to discuss federal elder fraud prosecutions, statistics relating to elder fraud, current trends, and resources for reporting.

Reporting from consumers about fraud and fraud attempts is critical to law enforcements efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting older adults.  If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This Department of Justice Hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting or connect them with agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis.  The hotline is staffed from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.  English, Spanish, and other languages are available.  More information about the Department’s elder justice efforts can be found on the Department’s Elder Justice website, www.elderjustice.gov.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help seniors, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/elder-justice-initiative

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Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Marcia Lubin (410) 209-4854
Updated October 4, 2022