LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Today, U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada joins Attorney General William P. Barr and the Department of Justice in observing the 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada echoes voices around the world condemning elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
“Elder Abuse Awareness Day reinforces the importance of not only prosecuting criminals who target seniors, but also conducting outreach to raise awareness and providing guidance to help recognize fraud schemes,” said U.S. Attorney Trutanich. “Our office looks forward to continue working with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who prey on the elderly.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our country and the world, but our senior citizens are among those most severely affected by the threat of the novel virus. During this time, when seniors are most vulnerable and isolated from their families and loved ones by social distancing and quarantine restrictions, bad actors have exploited this international tragedy to prey on the elderly through a host of scam and fraud schemes. As the world takes this day to remember the elderly, the Department of Justice remains committed to preventing and prosecuting fraud on America’s seniors, including through its Elder Justice Initiative.
The Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute fraudsters exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and targeting seniors by, among other things, offering fake testing kits and fake help to obtain stimulus and Paycheck Protection Program Funds. On this day dedicated to recognizing our seniors, the Department sends the message that it will continue the fight to keep seniors safe.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Barr declared “Prevention and Disruption of Transnational Elder Fraud” to be an Agency Priority Goal, making it one of the Department’s four top priorities. Major strides have already been made to that end:
- National Elder Fraud Hotline (833-FRAUD-11): Earlier this year Attorney General Barr launched a National Elder Fraud Hotline. Staffed by experienced case managers who provide personalized support to callers, the hotline serves to assist elders and caretakers who believe they have been a victim of fraud by reporting and providing appropriate services.
- Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force: Established in June 2019 to combat foreign elder fraud schemes, the Strike Force is composed of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices along with FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel. Since its inception, prosecutors in Strike Force districts brought cases against more than 140 sweep defendants.
- Annual Elder Justice Sweep: In March of this year, the Attorney General announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in department history. The Department, together with every U.S. Attorney’s office, charged more than 400 defendants, causing over $1 billion in loss through fraud schemes that largely affected seniors, including the following cases in the District of Nevada.
- U.S. v. Castro, et al.: Six Las Vegas-area residents with running a fraudulent mass-mailing scheme that defrauded hundreds of thousands of consumers — many of whom were elderly — into paying more than $10 million in fees for falsely promised cash prizes.
- U.S. v. Marcks, et al.: Five Las Vegas-area residents were charged in a 22-count indictment relating to an India-based telemarketing and email marketing conspiracy that targeted seniors. The defendants allegedly obtained over $2.4 million from victims residing throughout the United States.
- Money Mule Initiative: Since October 2018, the Department and its law enforcement partners began a concentrated effort across the country and around the world to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute money mule activity used to facilitate fraud schemes, especially those victimizing senior citizens. In 2019, the Money Mule Initiative halted the conduct of more than 600 domestic money mules, exceeding a similar effort against approximately 400 mules in the previous year.
- Holding foreign-based perpetrators and those that flee the United States accountable: Transnational criminal organizations are targeting our elder population in schemes including mass mailing fraud, grandparent scams, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, and technical-support scams. For example, in 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada charged four executives at PacNet Services Ltd, a payment processing company based in Vancouver, Canada, with engaging in a massive fraud scheme in which PacNet processed payments for companies that mailed fraudulent notifications to consumers (including many who were elderly or vulnerable) in the United States.
For more information on enforcement actions, training and resources, research, and victim services, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
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