Justice Department Announces Crimes Against Elderly Initiatives
MADISON, WIS. – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, joined Attorney General William P. Barr today in announcing two initiatives to protect the elderly.
National Elder Fraud Hotline
The first initiative is the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline for 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).
“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.”
“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities,” said United States Attorney Blader. “My office will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to bring those who prey on the elderly to justice.”
The following are examples of elder fraud cases recently prosecuted in the Western District of Wisconsin:
Emmanuel Odiah, 33, a Nigerian national, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to launder the proceeds of a romance fraud scheme that involved primarily senior citizen victims, including one in Wisconsin. Other individuals, operating overseas, created fake profiles on internet dating services, gained the trust of the victims, and convinced the victims to transfer money to bank accounts maintained by Odiah in the United States under two fake identities. Odiah will be sentenced on April 7. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
Jamie Smith owned and operated two precious metals brokerages houses in Hudson, Wisconsin, and during the operation of these businesses, he offered to appraise coins, buy them, trade them, or sell them for his clients. Instead, he defrauded them by selling their coins and using the funds to pay his monthly mortgage and utilities, to make ATM cash withdrawals, and to make purchases at grocery stores, liquor stores, bars, hotels, and fast food restaurants. FBI agents identified 46 victims in this case, and the loss amount was over $1.24 million. Many of Smith’s victims were elderly and the stolen coins represented significant portions of their retirement assets. In December 2019, Smith was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison.
Patrick O’Connor, a real estate developer and licensed real estate agent in Waunakee, Wisconsin, solicited funds from individuals for investment in an online brokerage account, projecting an average annual return over 20%. Instead, he used investors’ funds for his personal expenses. To perpetuate the fraud, O’Connor provided investors with fictitious account statements that showed the investors’ supposed year-to-date profits and their supposed current portfolio balance. Even after being interviewed by an IRS criminal investigator, O’Connor continued to solicit investments and convinced two investors to provide him with over $1.7 million. In total, O’Connor convinced six investors to invest over $12 million with him. At his sentencing in July 2019, the judge called O’Connor’s scheme “predatory” and that his decision to take more money from investors after being interviewed by law enforcement was “morally bankrupt.” O’Connor was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison.
National Nursing Home Initiative
U.S. Attorney Blader also joins with Attorney General Barr in announcing today the Department of Justice’s National Nursing Home Initiative, which will coordinate and enhance civil and criminal efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.
“Millions of seniors count on nursing homes to provide them with quality care, and to treat them with dignity and respect when they are most vulnerable,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Yet, all too often, we have found nursing home owners or operators who put profits over patients, leading to instances of gross abuse and neglect. This national initiative will bring to justice those owners and operators who have profited at the expense of their residents, and help to ensure residents receive the care to which they are entitled.”
A number of factors in identifying the most problematic nursing homes are considered, including facilities that consistently fail to provide adequate nursing staff to care for their residents, fail to adhere to basic protocols of hygiene and infection control, fail to provide their residents with enough food to eat, withhold pain medication, or use physical or chemical restraints to restrain or otherwise sedate their residents.
The National Elder Fraud Hotline and the National Nursing Home Initiative reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting our nation’s seniors. The department’s Elder Justice Initiative in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices coordinate investigative and enforcement efforts against nursing homes and other long-term care entities that deliver grossly substandard care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and the investigation and prosecution of those who defraud the elderly. The Initiative and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices also support the efforts of state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and other elder justice professionals to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, with the development of training, resources, and information. Learn more about the Justice Department’s Elder Justice Initiative at www.justice.gov/elderjustice/.