You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia Joins Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to Protect Older Americans

MACON, Ga. – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia today announced that as part of its continuing efforts to protect older adults and to bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice, it 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 Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, 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 all of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the states of Georgia, Florida, Maryland, New York, Texas, Arizona and California.

“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.”

“Our engagement in the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force comes at a time when we are seeing bad actors using any means necessary to criminally extract money from unsuspecting citizens here in the Middle District of Georgia and nationwide,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “The scams are diabolical, robbing money and dignity from people who have worked and sacrificed a lifetime. Working with our law enforcement partners in Georgia, our office will vigorously pursue federal prosecution against those intent on defrauding our elder citizens.”

The Strike Force expansion will further enhance of 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 and combat grandparent scams.

This past year, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia pursued fraud cases targeting older Americans, including the recent prosecutions of individuals involved in a nationwide gift card scam. Hundreds of Americans, many elderly, were victimized as part of the larger scheme to criminally extract money from people. For more information about these prosecutions, please visit:  https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdga/pr/two-defendants-plead-guilty-resulting-separate-investigations-complex-wal-mart-gift.

As part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia ongoing elder fraud efforts, the office engages in outreach to the community to raise awareness about scams, exploitation and preventing victimization. The office has a dedicated Elder Justice Fraud Coordinator—Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Deitrick—who is focused on the successful prosecution of elder abuse cases, along with offering opportunities for education and training. Citizen groups and law enforcement agencies interested in learning more about training opportunities can contact Pam Lightsey, Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Middle District of Georgia, at pam.lightsey@usdoj.gov.

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 “sweepstakes” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in return for a fee. More than 150,000 of those victims cashed checks totaling $52 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks. Also notified were 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.

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 professional 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 seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.[ET]. 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.

Some of the cases that comprise today’s announcement are charges, which are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Updated October 4, 2022