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DOJ Targets 250 Defendants in Elder Abuse Cases

By Alex Padalka February 26, 2018

The Justice Department has organized the largest-ever coordinated sweep of defendants involved in elder fraud, going after investment advisors, fiduciaries and others across more than 50 federal districts, according to a press release from the DOJ.

In all, the DOJ and its law enforcement partners have charged more than 250 people — 200 of them criminally — for being responsible for causing more than half a billion dollars in losses to more than a million victims, according to the press release.

The DOJ also coordinated with state attorney generals as well as the Federal Trade Commission, which filed their own independent cases during the sweep as well, in addition to foreign law enforcement agencies, the DOJ says.

Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and others, the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch executed a “coordinated strike” against more than 43 fraudsters running mass-mailing schemes, the DOJ says. One scheme alone was run from 14 foreign countries and swindled American victims out of more than $30 million, according to the DOJ. The department also went after lottery phone scams, which claim to require fees or taxes paid on lottery winnings; grandparent scams, which trick seniors into believing that their grandchildren need bail money; romance scams, which convince victims that their love interest needs funds; Internal Revenue Service scams, in which fraudsters fleece victims by pretending to be IRS agents; and guardianship schemes, in which unscrupulous relatives or guardians steal funds from seniors under their care, according to the press release.

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The DOJ’s announcement doesn’t mention anything about telemarketing regulations being considered by the Federal Communications Commission that could make it easier for scammers to defraud elderly clients. In June, the FCC closed its public-comment period on ringless voicemails, which let callers leave messages without the phone first ringing, as reported.

Some critics have said that no-ring messages could act as the first step to draw seniors in for a real pitch. There is no timeline for the FCC decision.