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Expanded Strike Force Prosecutes Elder Fraud Scammers

State

An older woman uses her phone. | Image by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand, Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department is expanding its current Transnational Elder Strike Force, which began in 2019, to 14 additional U.S. Attorney’s offices, including the Northern District of Texas.

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas announced the expansion on Wednesday, October 5, 2022.

The Elder Strike Force has been responsible for the arrests and convictions of several criminal elements worldwide involved in elder fraud schemes.

It previously consisted of multiple federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, and six U.S. Attorneys’ offices nationwide. The entities worked with foreign colleagues to bring criminals to justice.

The personnel at the Justice Department and its law enforcement partners investigated around 260 cases involving over 600 defendants.

Some of the cases involved mass-marketing scams that impacted numerous victims. The DOJ has attempted to return the money stolen from some of the victims.

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas recently convicted five defendants of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The cases involved various romance scams targeting senior citizens.

Five other defendants currently await trial in North Texas over elderly fraud schemes, and the victims’ losses are reportedly estimated to be around $9.3 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Northern District of Texas, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Donna Max and Mary Walters, participated in several outreach efforts.

During the 17th Annual National Conference on Crimes Against Women in May, Max provided elder abuse training to first responders and victim advocates.

Walters provided training to prosecutors at the federal level on building elder fraud cases against domestic and international defendants during the October Justice Department’s Elder Justice Coordinator Training.

The announcement stated further that expanding the task force — adding 14 U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, and Texas — will help the Justice Department combat the scheme, which authorities believe primarily impacts older adults.

The U.S. Attorney General, Merrick B. Garland, explained the DOJ decided to include the 14 U.S. Attorneys’ offices to protect older adults nationwide while dismantling and prosecuting external fraud schemes targeting senior citizens.

“This expansion builds on the Justice Department’s existing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from older adults, including by returning those funds to the victims where possible,” Garland added.

“At the FBI, we swear an oath to protect the American people, and this includes our most vulnerable populations, like the elderly,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Efforts like these display our unwavering dedication to protecting our older citizens and combating fraudsters who look to exploit them.”

Wray added that he is proud of FBI agents’ and analysts’ work, as well as the role played by law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels in bringing criminals to justice.

The director further encouraged anyone who may have been a victim of elder fraud — or know anyone who was — to contact law enforcement for help.

The U.S. Attorney’s for the Western District of Texas, which is set to be a new addition to the task force, said in a news release that it is committed to “pursuing justice for older adults throughout communities in the Western District of Texas.”

“Older adults are often exploited and victimized by fraud schemes that deplete their financial resources at a time in their lives when those resources are most needed and most often irreplaceable,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff in the press release.

Hoff added that her office “looks forward to working with other members of the task force and [their] state and local law enforcement partners in this pursuit.”

The Justice Department stated further that consumers’ reports on fraud and fraud attempts are crucial to law enforcement’s efforts to bring perpetrators of adult scams to justice.

Authorities, therefore, ask those who know anyone who is 60 years or older who has been a victim of financial fraud to contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-866 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).

The Justice Department noted that the number could be used at any time of the day, and callers can be attended to in either English, Spanish, or other supported languages.

More information can be obtained from the DOJ’s Elder Justice Website.            

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