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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Tennessee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 15, 2020

Department of Justice Observes the 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

MEMPHIS, TN – Today, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant 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.

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. On this day dedicated to recognizing our seniors, the Department of Justice sends a strong message that we continue the fight to keep seniors safe a top priority.

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: "It is a top priority for this office to protect our senior population across the district. To halt the scourge of abuse, exploitation and financial fraud against older citizens, we are pleased to join with the Attorney General in our firm commitment to investigate, prosecute, punish and deter crimes against our vulnerable seniors. Those who target or victimize the elderly will receive the full attention of our office and law enforcement officials in West Tennessee."

Earlier this year Attorney General Barr declared "Prevention and Disruption of Transnational Elder Fraud" to be an Agency Priority Goal, making it one of the Department’s four top priorities.

Two cases from the Western District of Tennessee were included as part of the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history earlier this year:

• Keith L. Dobbs, 39, disbarred Memphis attorney, has been charged with sixty-seven counts federal felony violations. Dobbs misappropriated funds from 26 victims who received veteran’s benefits and nine Social Security recipients. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/federal-grand-jury-returns-two-indictments-charging-disbarred-memphis-attorney-total

• Stephen Douglas Fry, 72, a financial advisor who stole and embezzled approximately $1.3 million from a client who had given him power of attorney to prepare tax returns and manage and invest monies following the death of her husband. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/financial-advisor-pleads-guilty-fraud-charges

Additionally, major strides have already been made to support this Department of Justice Agency Priority Goal:

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. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/department-justice-charges-unprecedented-number-elder-fraud-defendants-nationwide-and

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.

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.

For more information on enforcement actions, training and resources, research, and victim services, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.

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Contact: 
Cherri Green Reentry and Community Outreach Coordinator Cherri.green@usdoj.gov (901) 544-4231
Updated June 19, 2020