A nationwide law enforcement effort has resulted in authorities identifying more than 250 defendants in what is being called “the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.”
The cases from around the globe led to more than 1 million Americans — mostly elderly — being victimized.
“In each case, offenders engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors,” the U.S. Justice Department said in a Feb. 22 statement.
The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, ranging from mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual incidences of identity theft and theft by guardians.
A number of cases involved transnational criminal organizations that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims, while others involved a single relative or fiduciary who took advantage of an individual victim.
In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused losses of more than half a billion dollars.
The cases include criminal, civil, and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts.
“The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Today’s actions send a clear message: we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.”
“When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains,” Sessions said.
He has directed Justice Department prosecutors to coordinate with both domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to “stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors.”
Nevada was part of the national sweep.
“Elder exploitation and abuse is a growing problem, and my office has partnered with state and federal agencies in a national effort to express our joined commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities,” state Attorney General Adam Laxalt said.
“In Nevada and other states, members of our elderly population are exploited and abused by professional guardians, friends and even family members,” he said. “My office is proud to have created a Financial Fraud Unit dedicated to this mission, which has charged the most significant guardianship indictment in Nevada’s history.”
About the scams
U.S. Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell said: “Winners. That’s what so many of the people who received these solicitations in the mail thought they were. But they’re not.
“They are victims of scams that postal inspectors have seen and investigated for decades,” Cottrell said. “In fact, some of the same operators we encountered 20 years ago are back. But so are we.”
Postal inspectors around the country executed search warrants on 12 locations that some of these same operators used to run their scams, he said.
The FBI is part of the effort, as well.
“Over the last year, the FBI has initiated more than 200 financial crimes cases involving elderly victims who were devastated financially, emotionally, mentally and physically,” FBI Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich said.
“Picking up the pieces of these fraud schemes can be equally as traumatizing for the caregivers of these elderly victims,” Bowdich said.
The FBI reminds seniors and their caregivers to be vigilant.
“If any person believes they are the victim of, or have knowledge of fraud involving an elderly person, regardless of the loss amount, they should report it to the FBI,” said.