Department of Justice Charges Unprecedented Number of Elder Fraud Defendants Nationwide and Launches Hotline
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.VA. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart 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.
Just last week, Patricia Dudding, 68, of Huntington, West Virginia, was indicted for her role in an international Nigerian fraud scheme. It is the largest elder fraud scheme ever prosecuted in West Virginia history. The indictment charges Dudding with conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud and unlawful money transactions. The indictment alleges that Dudding acted as a money mule for a Nigerian scammer and that over $3 million was transferred or deposited into her accounts during the course of the scheme. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of nearly $1.9 million related to the alleged scheme.
“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.”
“Elder fraud is a diabolical crime that preys on the vulnerabilities of some of the most vulnerable among us,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. These crimes are devastating to victims who often lose their life savings. We are using both criminal and civil enforcement tools to hold fraudsters accountable and seek justice for the victims.”
“The exploitation of a vulnerable population is a particular evil,” said United States Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Wade Fleming. “We will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to bring offenders to justice and recover money for the victims.”
This interactive map (https://www.justice.gov/civil/elder-fraud-sweeps-2020) 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.
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.
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Updated March 3, 2020