PORTLAND — Attorney General William P. Barr was joined by U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale Tuesday, March 3 to announce its largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history as prosecutors this year have charged more than 400 defendants.
Last year’s sweep prosecutors charged 260 defendants. According to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Oregon, in each case offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors.
The fraud schemes in total have caused alleged losses of over a billion dollars, said the press release. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon is working with a number of federal, state, local and tribal partners to combat all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, victim services and public awareness.
Elder abuse affects nearly 10 percent of older Americans every year, a serious crime against some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, said the press release.
“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.”
“Victims of all ages lose billions of dollars annually to fraud schemes and the elderly fall victim to these schemes at far greater rates than the rest of the population. We all need to be vigilant in protecting our own finances, but we also need to watch out for our elderly friends and love ones. Intercede when you learn that a friend or family member is contemplating sending money to someone who has contacted them by telephone or online. Your vigilance will make a difference,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Federal law enforcement will continue to do everything we can to stop these bad actors before they can victimize more Americans.”
This interactive map provides information on the elder fraud cases highlighted by Tuesday’s sweep announcement. In addition to increased cases, Attorney General Barr also announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, a hotline for seniors who may be victims of financial fraud.
The hotline, which will be staffed by experience case managers, will provide callers with personalized support and assistance in reporting suspected fraud to relevant agencies,
Case managers will also be able to complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for internet-facilitated crimes. They will also be able to submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.
According to the press release, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners for the second year took comprehensive action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud.
A “money mule” is used by perpetrators to transfer fraud proceeds from a victim to ringleaders of fraud schemes who often reside in other counties, said the press release.
“The FBI and the Postal Inspection Service took action against over 600 alleged money mules nationwide by conducting interviews, issuing warning letters, and bringing civil and criminal cases,” said the press release. “Agents and prosecutors in more than 85 federal district participated in this effort to halt the money flow from victim to fraudster. These actions against money mules were in addition to the criminal and civil cases announced as part of this year’s elder fraud sweep.”
The charges announced Tuesday are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, said the release. The Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).