WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other law enforcement partners Thursday to announce the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in U.S. history.
At a news conference at the U.S. Department of Justice, the officials announced recent enforcement actions against numerous fraud schemes that have targeted senior citizens. The schemes ranged from wide-ranging mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual incidents of identity theft and theft by guardians. The schemes charged in these cases caused losses to more than one million victims.
Schmidt highlighted numerous cases filed by state attorneys general within the past year and emphasized efforts at the state level to combat fraud and elder abuse and protect seniors from fraud and exploitation.
“In a bipartisan effort, state attorneys general are focused on protecting senior citizens from scams and rip-offs and are participating in this coordinated enforcement announcement to highlight the critical importance of federal-state cooperation in finding and prosecuting those who have defrauded seniors,” Schmidt said. “By working together, federal, state and local partners can ensure the most-appropriate law-enforcement and legal tools are available to combat each individual case of physical or financial abuse of seniors, which all too often occurs in the shadows. When we coordinate efforts, no fraud is too large to take on, and no fraud is too small to warrant enforcement.”
Between 1900 and 2010, the number of Americans age 65 and older grew from fewer than 5 million to more than 40 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Over the same time, the portion of the population in that age bracket rose from about 3 per cent to more than 12 percent. By one estimate, only one in every 24 cases of elder abuse is detected or reported. Despite that underreporting, statistically one in every 10 Americans age 65 or older who lives at home will become a victim of abuse.
Schmidt, who was elected last June as president of the National Association of Attorneys General, is focusing during his presidency on working with attorneys general and other law enforcement authorities around the country to help all states gather expertise and build capacity to fight elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The members of the association are the 56 state, territorial and District of Columbia attorneys general.
Schmidt’s presidential initiative is titled “Protecting America’s Seniors: Attorneys General United Against Elder Abuse.” It will culminate in a national summit on the subject that Schmidt will host in Manhattan, Kansas, on April 17 and 18. Thursday’s coordinated federal-state announcement is part of the presidential initiative’s effort to focus attention and resources on the need to combat elder financial abuse and to build coordination among jurisdictions.
Thursday’s announcement highlighted cases from Kansas, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Utah. The 12 cases from Kansas were prosecuted by the attorney general’s office within the past year, and the outcome of each completed case has been previously announced in Kansas. In addition to Schmidt and Sessions, Thursday’s announcement included remarks by Postal Chief Inspector Guy Cottrell, Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich and FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen.