Elder Fraud Sweep By DOJ Targets More Than 250 Defendants

Posted On Thursday, March 8, 2018
By: John A. Schwab

What Happened

In a joint press release by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and representatives from the FBI, Postal Inspectors and Federal Trade Commission, it was announced that the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history was conducted related over half a billion dollars in losses.  The cases included criminal, civil and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts.  The fraud schemes took a variety of forms from mass-mailing, telemarketing and investment fraud schemes to individual incidents of identity theft and theft by guardians and caretakers.  Many of the cases involved transnational criminal organizations that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims but other schemes involved a single relative or guardian who took advantage of an individual victim.

Actions by the federal government involved the following:

  • Mass-mailing fraud industry:  DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch worked in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, brought cases against over 40 mass-mailing fraud operators, including criminal charges against six individuals.  Law enforcement executed search warrants at 14 premises from Las Vegas to Florida, even coordinating with Vancouver Police in Canada, who executed over 20 search warrants.
  • Other elder law fraud schemes were targeted by DOJ’s Fraud Section and the Consumer Protection Branch involved a variety of schemes including “lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a fee or tax must be paid before they can receive lottery winnings; “grandparent schemes” which convince seniors that a grandchild has been arrested and needs bail money; and “IRS imposter schemes” which defraud seniors by bad actors posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes.

Beyond the historic number of defendants targeted, the sweep was also noteworthy due to the degree of coordination between United States and foreign law enforcement.  General Sessions announced that the sweep benefited greatly from the work of the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group (IMMFWG), a network of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies from a variety of nations including Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

For the Record

Attorney General Sessions:  “The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic … when criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains.  Today is only the beginning.  I have directed Department Prosecutors to coordinate with the domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors.”

If you are being investigated, or have been charged, in an alleged fraud scheme that allegedly targets the elderly, please contact one of our Attorneys today.