District of South Carolina Takes Part in Largest-Ever Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep
Attorney General Focuses on Threats Posed by Technical-Support Fraud
Columbia, South Carolina – Attorney General William P. Barr and United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon today announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, surpassing last year’s nationwide sweep. The cases during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly.
“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But thanks to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, as well as our state and local partners, the Department of Justice is protecting our seniors from fraud. The Trump administration has placed a renewed focus on prosecuting those who prey on the elderly, and the results of today’s sweep make that clear. Today we are announcing the largest single law enforcement action against elder fraud in American history. This year’s sweep involves 13 percent more criminal defendants, 28 percent more in losses, and twice the number of fraud victims as last year’s sweep. I want to thank the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which led this effort, together with the Department’s Criminal Division, the more than 50 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and the state and local partners who helped to make these results possible. Together, we are bringing justice and peace of mind to America's seniors.”
United States Attorney Lydon stated, “Our office is fully committed to the protection of the elderly as a part of the national Elder Fraud Initiative (EFI). Our prosecutors work day in and day out with law enforcement partners to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from harm. I thank Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice for their leadership in putting a stop to elder fraud schemes.”
United States Attorney Lydon has appointed an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) as her statewide EFI coordinator and has designated an AUSA in each of the Columbia, Charleston, Florence, and Greenville Offices to lead the EFI efforts in their regions. Two cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina in the last year demonstrate that the EFI effort goes after anyone who seeks to harm the elderly financially, no matter how small or large the loss.
Lashonda Ravenell, age 29, of Charleston, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to a fraud charge in federal court after obtaining credit card information from a resident at the care facility where she worked and stealing $30,786.62 from him.
Melvin Wimmer, Jr., age 53, of Greenwood, South Carolina, is serving 75 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a securities fraud scheme that targeted numerous elderly people. Mr. Wimmer, an “investment advisor,” talked his victims into investing their retirement savings with him. After obtaining approximately $3.6 million from them, he managed to lose $3 million of it through high-risk trading. At no time did he ever advise his clients of the risk to their money, and after losing the money he kept the venture going by providing his investors with bogus earnings statements to keep them in the game, to use a conman’s phrase. Wimmer will be under court-ordered supervision for five years when he is released from prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s EFI team has reached out to and is coordinating with numerous federal, state, and local groups that are committed to protecting the elderly from all types of abuse. Additionally, members of the EFI team are available to make educational presentations to any group throughout the State.
United States Attorney Lydon would invite the public to visit her office’s EFI website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-sc/elder-justice-initiative. Additionally, reports of elder fraud may be made by calling any of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in South Carolina and asking to speak to an elder fraud attorney.
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. The Justice Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.