Department of Justice Charges Unprecedented Number of Elder Fraud Defendants Nationwide and Launches Hotline
12 Defendants Charged in District of Northern Oklahoma
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores joined Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale today 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.
“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.”
“Millions of dollars are stolen or defrauded from senior citizens every year. Just last November, my office charged ten men with laundering proceeds acquired through online romance scams operated from Nigeria. In total, three elder Americans, including one from Oklahoma, lost $1.5 million to the fraudsters,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “My team of dedicated prosecutors will continue to fight for justice and shut down illicit operations targeting elder Americans.”
In addition to the defendants charged as part of the Nigerian fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Hillary Victoria Ginn in October with theft of mail which resulted in financial losses for senior citizens. Also in 2019, Crystal Lynn Clark was charged with aggravated identity theft. Clark allegedly used credit card information from multiple senior victims to purchase gift cards. She then provided her associates with the gift card information. Clark also allegedly used the victims’ credit cards to make numerous personal purchases.
In partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has helped lead the fight against crimes targeting seniors. The Inspection Service is the law enforcement and crime prevention branch of the Postal Service. Postal Inspectors enforce more than 200 federal laws to protect the nation’s mail and its customers.
“Scams targeting seniors are always evolving and only limited by the imagination of the suspect,” said Thomas Noyes, Inspector in Charge of the Fort Worth Division. “The Inspection Service would encourage seniors, as well as their friends and family, to visit USPIS.GOV to see examples of scams, equip themselves with prevention techniques, and report a crime. You’re not in this fight alone; we are here to help.”
This 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.
Also in 2019, the Oak Ridge Boys, Department of Justice, AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma teamed up to fight elder fraud. You can see the Oak Ridge Boys in a public service announcement here.
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.