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Press Release

Southern District of Iowa United States Attorney’s Office Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Iowa
Information and vigilance remain key elements to preventing elder abuse

DES MOINES, Iowa – Richard D. Westphal, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, joined national, state, and local leaders today in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Since 2006, WEAAD has been commemorated to promote awareness and increases understanding of the many forms of elder abuse as well as the resources available to those at risk.

Highlighting the partnership between law enforcement and the public, United States Attorney Westphal emphasized the importance of awareness and education. “Today, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, our office reminds seniors and caregivers to be vigilant to detect and report fraud schemes that target the elderly and other vulnerable adults to law enforcement immediately. Elder financial fraud causes devastating losses to its victims. With the cooperation of our federal, state, and local partners, we will continue to hold perpetrators of elder financial exploitation accountable.”

Elder abuse is an act that knowingly, intentionally, or negligently causes or creates a serious risk of harm to an older person by a family member, caregiver, or other person in a trust relationship. Such harm may be financial, physical, sexual, or psychological. The Justice Department maintains a variety of programs and initiatives to combat elder abuse.

The Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force marshals federal and state agencies working collaboratively to investigate and prosecute foreign-based schemes that target older Americans. In addition to aggressively investigating the individuals, organizations, and networks responsible for these crimes, this initiative provides the public with information to guard against both traditional scams, like tech support fraud, as well as trending schemes, such as romance scams.

Using one scam to perpetrate or conceal another, some fraudsters rely on money mules to move the proceeds of their illegal activity. Preying on the good will or financial vulnerability or their targets, scammers recruit people, many times older victims, to participate in schemes to move money in ways that avoid notice. The Money Mule Initiative identifies and addresses money mule activity to disrupt these fraud schemes, and helps people to recognize and avoid participation in perpetuating fraud.

To help older individuals and their families identify and avoid fraudulent activity, the Justice Department provides Senior Scam Alerts with information about the tactics used in specific schemes. For example, in Social Security Administration Impostor schemes, scammers impersonate government administrators and falsely report suspicious activity to request that the victims provide their Social Security number for confirmation. In Tech Support scams, fraudsters contact victims, sometimes through internet pop-up messages, to warn about non-existent computer problems, ask that the victim give them remote access to their computer, then demand large sums of money for unnecessary services. In Lottery scams, telemarketers falsely notify victims that they have won a sweepstakes and tell them they must first pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes before the can claim their prizes.

To learn more about the department’s elder justice efforts please visit  the Elder Justice Initiative page.

The Southern District of Iowa United States Attorney’s Office continues to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute elder abuse crimes.

On June 10, 2024, William Jack Berg pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering and agreed to the forfeiture of diamond jewelry purchased with proceeds of his scheme to defraud. Berg sold life insurance, annuities, and similar products to individuals in Central Iowa and the St. Louis area. From at least January 2019, and continuing to May 2023, Berg encouraged victims, many of whom were elderly, to take money out of the victims’ pre-existing investments or financial accounts and provide the monies to Berg for investment. Victims provided Berg with over $1.5 million that Berg did not invest for the benefit of the victims, rather he used the funds for unauthorized purposes. Berg is scheduled to be sentenced on October 11, 2024. He faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison for money laundering. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the United States sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

On June 12, 2024, Zachary James Flaherty was sentenced to 19 years in prison for wire fraud and was ordered to pay more than $2.4 million in restitution. Flaherty used his position as an insurance agent and annuity salesperson to defraud elderly individuals out of their retirement savings and other monies in excess of $3 million. His victims ranged in age from their early sixties to their nineties. According to case documents, Flaherty befriended elderly individuals throughout the Midwest, gained their trust, and either fraudulently obtained access to victims’ funds and transferred money to his own bank accounts, or he invested the victims’ money in annuities which were inappropriate for his victims’ financial situations – fraudulently obtaining large commissions in the process. Flaherty used the proceeds of his fraudulent scheme to acquire various assets, including a boat and automobiles.

To report elder fraud, contact the dedicated National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 or 1-833-372-8311 and visit the FBI’s IC3 Elder Fraud Complaint Center at


MacKenzie Tubbs
Public Information Officer 

Updated June 17, 2024

Elder Justice
Community Outreach