Department of Justice Observes the 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Today, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores joined Attorney General William P. Barr and the entire Department of Justice in observing the 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Department echoes voices around the world condemning elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“On this day when the world highlights the problem of elder abuse and fraud, the Department of Justice continues to send a strong message that keeping our seniors safe is a top priority,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “My office will fight to hold accountable those con artists who take advantage of older Oklahomans.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our country and the world, but among those most severely affected by the threat of the novel virus are our senior citizens. During this time when seniors are most vulnerable and isolated from their families and loved ones by social distancing and quarantine restrictions, bad actors have immediately exploited this international tragedy to prey on the elderly through a whole host of scam and fraud schemes. As the world takes this day to remember the elderly during these uncertain times, the Department of Justice remains relentlessly committed, through its department-wide Elder Justice Initiative, to prevent and prosecute fraud on America’s seniors.
The Department will aggressively prosecute fraudsters exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic and targeting seniors offering them fake testing kits and fake help obtaining stimulus and Paycheck Protection Program Funds.
The District of Northern Oklahoma recently brought federal charges in multiple cases of elder fraud. In November 2019, the office charged ten men with laundering proceeds acquired through online romance scams operated from Nigeria. Fraudsters targeted multiple elder victims from across America, including Oklahoma, and netted at least $1.5 million. In another case, William Brian Mulder, 61, of Tulsa, was charged with 26 counts of Bank Fraud; 41 counts of causing the interstate transmission of moneys taken by fraud, and five counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. He allegedly defrauded five federally insured financial institutions and two investor families of more than $5 million dollars. Also, in February 2020, Jacob Kyle Killough, 37, of Owasso, pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and financial institution fraud. Killough stole checks from multiple elderly victims’ mailboxes then altered them to show the checks payable to Killough.
Major strides have already been made to that end:
-National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833-FRAUD-11
Earlier this year Attorney General Barr launched a National Elder Fraud Hotline. Staffed by experienced case managers who provide personalized support to callers, the hotline serves to assist elders and caretakers who believe they have been a victim of fraud by reporting and providing appropriate services.
-Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force: Established in June 2019 to combat foreign elder fraud schemes, the Strike Force is composed of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices along with FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel. Since its inception, prosecutors in Strike Force districts brought cases against more than 140 sweep defendants.
-Annual Elder Justice Sweep: In March of this year, the Attorney General announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in department history. The Department, together with every U.S. Attorney’s office, charged more than 400 defendants, causing over $1 billion in loss through fraud schemes that largely affected seniors. The District of Northern Oklahoma took part in this sweep. You can find the press release here.
-Money Mule Initiative: Since October 2018, the Department and its law enforcement partners began a concentrated effort across the country and around the world to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute money mule activity used to facilitate fraud schemes, especially those victimizing senior citizens. In 2019 actions were taken to halt the conduct of more than 600 domestic money mules, exceeding a similar effort against approximately 400 mules in the previous year. In December 2019, the District of Northern Oklahoma charged a money mule, Crystal Lynne Clark, with 14 counts of aggravated identity theft. Clark allegedly used stolen credit card information from victims to purchase gift cards. She then provided her associates with the gift card information and also used the victims’ credit cards to make numerous personal purchases. See the press release here.
-Holding foreign-based perpetrators and those that flee the United States accountable: Transnational criminal organizations are targeting our elder population in schemes including mass mailing fraud, grandparent scams, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, and technical-support scams.