Maple Heights man charged with elder fraud
United States Attorney Justin Herdman announced today that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland has returned a six-count indictment charging Andrew V. Thomas, age 34, of Maple Heights with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
“The defendant is alleged to have used his position to access the sensitive financial information of his elderly victims,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herman, “Robbing our community’s elderly members of their hard-earned life savings ruins trust and lives. The Department of Justice takes allegations and cases of elder fraud very seriously and will prosecute them to their fullest extent.”
According to the indictment, from November 2018 to November 2019, the defendant was employed as a Call Center Representative for an insurance company in Cleveland, Ohio. The defendant’s responsibilities included speaking with clients and their agents about annuities, updating client bank account information, and processing withdrawal transactions.
During this time, the defendant allegedly devised a scam to defraud three elderly victims by transferring money from his victim’s annuities into personal bank accounts. Court documents state that Victim 1 is an 84-year-old woman in Avon, Connecticut; Victim 2, an 83-year woman with dementia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Victim 3, a 96-year-old woman and a resident of Metairie, Louisiana were all part of the defendant’s fraud. Victim 1, Victim 2’s power of attorney, and Victim 3 all called the defendant to inquire about a policy-related matter. The defendant spoke to all of the victims and had access to their accounts.
The defendant would then use the company’s computer system to make unauthorized transfers from the annuities of Victim 1, Victim 2, and Victim 3 into the defendant’s personal bank accounts. As a result of the unauthorized transfers, Victim 1, Victim 2, and Victim 3 suffered a total loss of approximately $62,600.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation preceding the complaint was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cleveland Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough.
Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In particular, in March 2020, the department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep. The department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act. For more information about the Elder Justice Initiative, please visit https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. 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 relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish and other languages are available.