HARRISBURG – U.S. Attorney David J. Freed joined Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale in announcing the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. This year, prosecutors charged more than 400 defendants, far surpassing the 260 defendants charged in cases as part of last year’s sweep. In each case, offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors. In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused alleged losses of over a billion dollars.
Law Enforcement Actions in the Middle District:
- Omoefe Okoro, age 48, a citizen of Canada, and others are alleged to have engaged in an attorney “collection scam” in Ontario, Canada, and elsewhere. In particular, Okoro and his co-conspirators are alleged to have conducted a scheme in which they contacted businesses and individuals, including elderly victims, and requested, among other things, to collect an outstanding debt. The suspects, posing as the third party, then sent a counterfeit check to the victim for deposit and requested that the victim wire funds to an account overseas, typically in Japan, South Korea, or China. Okoro is currently scheduled for trial on April 6, 2020.
- Anthony W. Redd, age 63, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was allegedly a “Money Mule” and participated in a scheme to defraud individuals out of money by making them believe they were eligible for cash and other prizes. As part of the scheme, Redd is alleged to have caused the mailing of legitimate postal money orders from Mechanicsburg to his address in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and to have converted the known proceeds of the scheme to cash or to have sent the proceeds through Western Union or MoneyGram to Costa Rica. Redd is currently scheduled to appear in court on March 31, 2020.
“Americans are fed up with the constant barrage of scams that maliciously target the elderly and other vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “This year, the Department of Justice prosecuted more than 400 defendants, whose schemes totaled more than a billion dollars. I want to thank the men and women of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which coordinated this effort, and all those in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and Criminal Division who worked tirelessly to bring these cases. The Department is committed to stopping the full range of criminal activities that exploit America’s seniors.”
“Every day across the Middle District of Pennsylvania - and across the country - fraudsters are out to prey on our most vulnerable citizens, our seniors,” said U.S. Attorney Freed. “Whether it is a collection scam, a lottery scam, posing as a representative of the IRS or Social Security Administration or falsely calling on behalf of a grandchild, these scammers are using technology to steal massive amounts of money from citizens who have spent a lifetime building their nest egg. We are constantly on alert for these scams, and are fighting back along with our federal partners like the FBI and United States Postal Inspection Service. We urge everyone who has been victimized to make a report so that we can continue this battle.”
“Postal Inspectors have long prioritized the sinister schemes that often victimize elder Americans,” said Assistant Inspector in Charge John Walker of the Philadelphia Division. “These arrests should put an exclamation point on the fact that if you use the mail or Postal products to defraud any American, Postal Inspectors will work diligently to bring you to justice. Along with our partners in the Post Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation the Department of Justice, and quite frankly all law enforcement, stopping the outward flow of money and victimization due to these schemes has been, and will continue to be, a priority for the Postal Inspection Service.”
“Elder fraud and abuse are deplorable acts,” said Tara A. McMahon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Specifically going after older folks because you consider them easy targets isn’t just cowardly, it’s cruel. If you're being victimized or know of someone who is, please reach out to the FBI. We’ll never stop working to protect the elderly from criminals who would take advantage of them.”
This https://www.justice.gov/civil/elder-fraud-sweeps-2020 interactive map provides information on the elder fraud cases highlighted by today’s sweep announcement.
Elder Fraud Hotline
Attorney General Barr also announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. The Hotline will be staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers. Case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed. When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller. The Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).
For the second year, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners also took comprehensive action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud. Generally, perpetrators use a “money mule” to transfer fraud proceeds from a victim to ringleaders of fraud schemes who often reside in other countries. Some of these money mules act unwittingly, and intervention can effectively end their involvement in the fraud. The FBI and the Postal Inspection Service took action against over 600 alleged money mules nationwide by conducting interviews, issuing warning letters, and bringing civil and criminal cases. Agents and prosecutors in more than 85 federal district participated in this effort to halt the money flow from victim to fraudster. These actions against money mules were in addition to the criminal and civil cases announced as part of this year’s elder fraud sweep.
These outreach efforts have helped to prevent seniors from falling prey to scams and have frustrated offenders’ efforts to obtain even more money from vulnerable elders.
The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
# # #