U.S. Attorney in Washington for World Elder Abuse Day
Courtesy: Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs
MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – United States Attorney Bill Powell is working to shed light on elder fraud in rural communities.
Powell, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Omps-Botteicher, attended an event to recognize World Elder Abuse Day at the Department of Justice Robert F. Kennedy Building’s Great Hall in Washington, D.C. this afternoon. Tony Roman of Martinsburg, a victim of elder fraud in the Northern District of West Virginia, delivered a statement on behalf of himself and other victims.
“With nearly 20 percent of West Virginia’s population 65 or older, our district is especially susceptible to elder fraud cases. We want to send a clear message that we will prosecute those who prey on some our state’s most vulnerable,” said Powell.
Elder fraud can happen to anyone anytime, as victim Tony Roman explained at the event, “I – we –were not victims of a phone scam or a lottery scam, as many times we hear about in the news. I became a victim by simply going to the doctor, as most Americans do every year.”
In Mr. Roman’s case, prosecuted by Omps-Botteicher, those convicted stole identifying information from a medical facility and used that information to create fake driver’s licenses to obtain credit cards and other accounts to defraud.
Wanda Keebler, a retired school teacher, was also defrauded by the same defendants that defrauded Roman. When this case came to light, her husband was dying. She admits her focus wasn’t on her bank accounts, it was on her husband and the medical care he was receiving from the same hospital from which her information was stolen. When she was notified that she was a victim, she was extremely upset. She said, “I was school teacher for 35 years, and for the first time, I felt like an idiot.”
The message sent at today’s event was that it is easy to fall victim to those preying on the elderly. All residents should monitor their financial accounts and credit consistently. Always report any suspicious activity.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) are forming a working group to focus on ways to empower and to support rural and tribal communities to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation.