NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser of the Eastern District of Louisiana joined Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale on March 3, 2020 to announce the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. This year, prosecutors charged more than 400 defendants, far surpassing the 260 defendants charged in cases as part of last year’s sweep. In each case, offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors. In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused alleged losses of over a billion dollars.
In the Eastern District of Louisiana, six Mexican nationals were indicted on October 3, 2019 by a federal grand jury for one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The indictment alleged that from at least January 1, 2016, to the present, the above defendants conspired together and with others to commit wire fraud in connection with a telemarketing scheme that targeted and victimized persons in the United States, Canada and South America. Of the U.S. victims, 40 out of 55 victims were 60 and older and the total estimated loss was at least $10,000,000.
“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.”
“With the unwavering cooperation of our investigative partners, protecting older Americans from fraud and educating them and their caregivers about fraud prevention is a priority for our department,” said U.S. Attorney Strasser. “Elder fraud schemes target elderly, disabled and other vulnerable consumers, luring them into fraudulent ventures that affected victims nationwide and generate excessive losses which have a profound effect on our nation. We will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are. Our office reminds seniors and their caregivers to be vigilant for fraudulent schemes and if you are aware of or believe you are the victim of a health care fraud scheme, please contact law enforcement.”
“Through elaborate schemes and the promise to help better their lives, millions of dollars are defrauded from American citizens, in particular, the elderly community,” said Bryan A. Vorndran, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge. “Just like the six defendants in this case, corrupt individuals continue to take advantage of vulnerable people and steal their life savings. Well, the money trail has ended for these defendants and it has led to their indictments. The FBI New Orleans Field Office, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of Louisiana remains committed to holding those accountable who attempt to swindle money from Americans.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been at the forefront of protecting consumers from fraud schemes for many years,” said Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez. “The number and variety of schemes that target our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and disabled, are numerous…and the effects of those schemes are devastating to the victim and their families. The Inspection Service is committed to pursuing those who utilize the U.S. Mail to perpetrate these financial fraud schemes and bring them to justice.”
This https://www.justice.gov/civil/elder-fraud-sweeps-2020 interactive map provides information on the elder fraud cases highlighted by today’s sweep announcement.
Elder Fraud Hotline
Attorney General Barr also announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to 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).
For the second year, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners also took comprehensive action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud. Generally, perpetrators use a “money mule” to transfer fraud proceeds from a victim to ringleaders of fraud schemes who often reside in other countries. Some of these money mules act unwittingly, and intervention can effectively end their involvement in the fraud. 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. 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.
These outreach efforts have helped to prevent seniors from falling prey to scams and have frustrated offenders’ efforts to obtain even more money from vulnerable elders.
The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.